## Can you be factually wrong, but morally right?

• 1.3k
Cortez (some American politician I admittedly don't know much about) has been in the news recently because she is getting corrected by fact checkers and they have been giving her some stick for putting out some wrong information.

She claims that people are getting hung up on what she said but not why she said it.

I'm no Cortez fan, and tend to be much more conservative, and certainly don't agree with her saying the things which she has which are incorrect, but it has been raising some interesting statements from the conservatives responding to her.

The claim being put forward by her opposition is that you cannot be factually incorrect, and morally right at the same time. The two don't mix, or rather to be factual is synonymous with being moral. But is this true?

It brings to mind the first few pages of The Republic by Plato, where Socrates speaks to Cephalus and they talk on what Justice is. Cephalus responds by saying it is to speak the truth, and return what is owed. In response to this, Socrates points out something analogous to the following:

You live in Germany during Hitlers reign, and a Nazi knocks on your door and asks you to give him back the rifle he lent you, and asks for information on the location of a Jewish family you know so he can go murder them.

If Justice is to give back what is owed and to speak the truth, then that would force one to give the rifle to the nazi, and tell him the Jewish family he is looking for are hiding in your basement.

Is it not fair to say with this example in mind, despite what the conservatives are saying against Cortez (who again, I am not fan of), that one can actually be factually incorrect, AND morally right at the same time? It is circumstantial and one is not synonymous with the other.

1. Can you be factually wrong and morally right? (26 votes)
Yes it is possible
65%
No its not possible at all
23%
Not sure
12%
• 1.3k

Concerning Cortez original statement, I think it was more a criticism of missing the forest for the trees. That is discussing details without engaging with the larger whole. Whether or not this criticism is warranted, I cannot say.

Now, to your question: I think there is a distinction between being correct and being truthful. In your example, the person might be said to tell a moral lie, but they are not factually incorrect.

I think being correct about what is and being correct about what should be are unrelated. You can be wrong about one and right about the other. Of course moral judgements require a set of circumstances to apply them to. But a moral act based on incorrect information is still moral, it just is not effective.
• 3.1k
It's not possible to be morally wrong or right. It is possible to be factually wrong or right.
• 4.4k
Seems to me necessarily - though perhaps trivially - "you" can be morally correct but factually wrong.

To be morally correct just means that a proposition P has been judged to be morally correct. Let's call that judgment an AMJ (affirmative moral judgment). With respect to a particular P, that would simply mean that AMJ(P) holds. Let's suppose that P is wrong; call it ~P. Then the question is, given that AMJ(P) holds, does that mean that AMJ(~P)) cannot hold? We resolve this by referring to how a dilemma works:

In a dilemma, you have apparent choices A, B,..., K, (each of the A, B,...,K, perhaps being itself a set of choices) . As it turns out though, no matter what you choose, you always get the same result R. In a true dilemma, then, R always follows. To be on the horns of a dilemma is descriptive of the structure of the argument (following the branch, or horn, to the single conclusion). Or more figuratively, whatever you do you get the horn!

Our AMJ corresponds to the R of the dilemma. In a sense, the result doesn't depend on the choices made, nor the moral quality of the judgment on the accuracy of the proposition.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, then, is exactly correct.

The real question, however, is not the academic question of the quality of AMJs, but whether you can make law with them.
• 13.8k
Moral right/wrong don't have anything to do with being factually correct. There are no moral facts, aside from the fact that someone has the moral views that they do.
• 8.7k
I prefer progressive politicians to conservative ones, but I am getting tired of hearing about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But then, I read the New York Times every day which is in love with her, so her name pops up in its pages a lot. And the Bronx and Queens is in the NYT service area.

But she could site incorrect facts in support of a moral argument. Maybe the percentage of electricity generated with coal is higher than she said; maybe the unemployment rate is lower than she said. But her concern about global warming and the status of the working class is morally justified.

How problematic "bad information" is depends on how it ended up in a statement. Finding faulty information in a usually reliable source is one thing, making them up out of thin air is something else. Sloppy research is one thing for an upstart (not the same as uppity) candidate, something else for the White House Budget Office.

Of course, wrong facts can be highly problematic. If she said that 100% of the donations that paid for her political campaign costs were $25 or less, when in fact 10% of them were$250,000, that is both a factual and moral problem. (This example is purely hypothetical on my part -- I know nothing about her campaign finances.)
• 2.1k
Bill, who is not poor, is believed to have stolen $100 from Joan, who is poor. Bill denies this. Joan is too upset to testify, but she has friends who do so on her behalf, based on what they believe is the case. Sanjeev is the neighbourhood leader who has been called upon to adjudicate. He makes Bill give$100 to Joan, as he believes the statements by others that Bill stole $100 from her.. In fact Bill did not steal$100 from Joan. But he did, in an act of spite because she rejected his sexual advances, entered her house and smashed up her crockery, which would cost slightly more than \$100 to replace.

Do you think it is the case that Sanjeev is factually wrong but morally right?
• 13.8k

I think he's morally wrong because he's deciding guilt based on mere testimony.
• 19
I don't think you can accidentally be morally right. You could accidently pick a moral path, but that doesn't mean you've made a moral choice.
• 8.9k

Before your question can be asked, let alone answered, you need to establish what it could mean to be morally correct.
• 5.8k
Is it not fair to say with this example in mind, despite what the conservatives are saying against Cortez (who again, I am not fan of), that one can actually be factually incorrect, AND morally right at the same time?

You can be factually wrong and morally correct. Isn't this the problem of unsound arguments (false premises specifically) with true conclusions?
• 3.1k
This is a lame and unlikely scenario. Why would Joan and her friends blame Bill for stealing money that wasnt stolen, rather her crockery was broken that was worth more? The scenario doesnt make any sense.
• 3.1k
There is no such thing as being morally right or wrong. There are only goals that we have and the actions of others that either promote or hinder our goals.
• 4.4k
There is no such thing as being morally right or wrong.
Quite sure of that? As to "thingness," no contest. Is that what you meant?
• 3.1k
Morals are misconstrued ideas about one's goals and how others either promote or hinder their goals.
• 4.4k
I've chewed on this for a while, but I'm not getting it. Expand on it a little (or more than a little, or just the right amount)?

It does seem to me that if a moral is a misconstrued idea, then that it is a misconstrued idea is right, and with respect to what it misconstrues, is wrong, right?
• 13.8k
that it is a misconstrued idea is right, and with respect to what it misconstrues, is wrong, right?

Which wouldn't itself be moral utterances.
• 763
has been in the news recently because she is getting corrected by fact checkers and they have been giving her some stick for putting out some wrong information.

What exactly are these incorrect claims being made? I see people say this, but they routinely seem to themselves be stating falsehoods based on talking points (I've noticed a lot of people flip their lids because they don't know what marginal tax rates are, for example). What I've see her say is that people jump on extremely minor details that don't affect the overall point (a couple weeks back she accidentally said "All three branches of Congress" instead of "government" in an interview,.for example... Like come on).

That aside... aside, it seems like you can be wrong about a fact and yet still be correct about some moral statement. Cortez, for example, champions "Medicare for all" as moral, and has cited studies saying it is overall a net savings when compared to the current patchwork health Care system in the U.S. Now even if that claim was false (it appears to be quite true) I don't see how that would affect the moral claim. Few who promote universal health care systems say they're moral because they save money, after all. It's supposed to be an added benefit to cut off certain untrue claims (e.g. "We can't afford X and that's why I'm against it" has been a long-standing conservative response to such things).

I mean, doesn't this basically come down to whether one accepts "ought implies can" or not?
• 4.4k
Which wouldn't itself be moral utterances.

Unless they were misconstrued?
• 13.8k

What would one think that moral utterances are in that case? Any arbitrary expression about anything?
• 3.1k
I've chewed on this for a while, but I'm not getting it. Expand on it a little (or more than a little, or just the right amount)?

It does seem to me that if a moral is a misconstrued idea, then that it is a misconstrued idea is right, and with respect to what it misconstrues, is wrong, right?
I think you're talking about being factually right or wrong here. It is factually right, or correct, that morals, or morality (the idea of moral right and wrong) are misconstrued ideas. What one misconstrues is that moral right and wrong are objective and exist independent of one's goals (like as a set of rules handed down by God). If goals are subjective then so are morals. Because morals are subjective it doesn't make sense to say that they can be right or wrong.
• 1.5k
Can one be factually wrong but morally right?

If one holds that facts have to do with empirical objective reality, and morality has to do with rational subjective reality, then yes, of course. Any ignorance of fact with respect to a given circumstance, which is far more likely than ignorance of a personal moral agenda, is sufficient to affirm the question.
• 430
It's a complicated question, but generally, truth is necessary to justice. Think of a defendant in court who tells lies. If his lies are believed - the judicial process continues toward a falsely just conclusion.

I have heard of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez - she's a democratic socialist, fiercely intelligent, and super easy on the eye. I like her. She's got fire in her belly, but she's new to politics - and new to the utter hypocrisy she will encounter.

Googling this subject, the only supposed "lie" I could find is some amateur twitter speculation that she's secretly rich, because she wore two coats, or something. This thread doesn't specify what lie she's supposed to have told. So this thread answers itself. Is it moral to lie to malign this woman?

There's also a lie of omission. Why seek to malign this woman? Is it misogyny? Racism? Political ideology? You deny knowledge of your motives, again - to pervert the calculus of moral reason.
• 13.8k
There's also a lie of omission. Why seek to malign this woman? Is it misogyny? Racism? Political ideology? You deny knowledge of your motives, again - to pervert the calculus of moral reason.

Political ideology most likely, There is a large segment of both Republicans and Democrats who'll look for any reason to criticize or "rip apart" anyone from the other side, merely because they're on the other side.
• 430
Political ideology most likely, There is a large segment of both Republicans and Democrats who'll look for any reason to criticize or "rip apart" anyone from the other side, merely because they're on the other side.

I just watched the SOTU. I think they've all got the clap!! President Evil took a swipe at AOC too. The cameras were looking at Bernie Sanders, but that's not who he was talking about. I've never really understood the lasting effect of McCarthyism on American political discourse. I don't know how you get ordinary people - earning miserable wages to resist healthcare and education as "socialism." Do they not understand there's a difference between socialist government, and social provision. They have trash collected, I suppose, street lights, armed forces, police, prisons - a long list of public goods to which they could easily add health and education without becoming a socialist country. It's very strange.
• 13.8k
Do they not understand there's a difference between socialist government, and social provision. They have trash collected, I suppose, street lights, armed forces, police, prisons - a long list of public goods to which they could easily add health and education without becoming a socialist country. It's very strange.

I think a lot of that just stems from America's history and geography. While there are very few people at present who don't use any government services, it's important to remember that it's a relatively young country, it's a huge country (the entire UK, for example, would fit in just the state of Oregon, and Oregon is only the 9th largest state), and even now, there are still a lot of rural or semi-rural areas. Rural and semi-rural locales are still the vast majority of the country by area (though not by population of course). Places where historically, up to not too long ago, people did have to do everything themselves, and a lot of people still live in relatively remote or secluded places, down dirt roads that aren't very often maintained, they home-school their kids, etc. There's a more recent tradition in the U.S. (compared to Europe, for example) of having to be self-sufficient, having to pull yourself and your own family up from your bootstraps basically, That became normalized. because historically it was necessary for it to be, so that people who weren't self-sufficient, especially if there was any impression of that being due to not wanting to work your fingers to the bone, etc., were seen negatively.

And those values might have disappeared more quickly if it weren't for the Great Depression in the earlier 20th Century. That tended to reinforce for many people that they needed to be self-sufficient and not rely on the government. The Great Depression wasn't that long ago. My grandfather was in his mid 20s to mid 30s during it, and my mother was born at the end of it. So its influence on the current population is still strong, even if it's fading away a bit now.

Also, if you're living down a dirt road, home-schooling your kids, you're on a well, you're not on public sewers, etc., maybe you've got a farm, even if just a small farm, and you're mostly eating your own food/other local farmers' food, etc., you're more likely to resent the government demanding part of the money you're making (if you're selling some of your food, for example), demanding property tax, etc.
• 1
Facts do not change. Morals are a reflection of the standard of the day, and that might take a 180* turn. So just because it may be considered moral, will never change the fact that it is still wrong.
• 1.4k
It's not possible to be morally wrong or right. It is possible to be factually wrong or right.

Moral right/wrong don't have anything to do with being factually correct. There are no moral facts, aside from the fact that someone has the moral views that they do.

The three of us seem to agree that objective moral values don't exist. However, I'll point out that we still have moral beliefs. Behaving morally entails behaving consistently with one's moral beliefs.

Also, despite the non-existence of objective moral values - we CAN inter-subectively agree on various moral beliefs. I'll bet all three of us intersubjectively believe raping a child is wrong.

Go ahead, I dare you to disagree :-)
• 13.8k
The three of us seem to agree that objective moral values don't exist. However, I'll point out that we still have moral beliefs.

Yes, I definitely agree with you there.

Behaving morally entails behaving consistently with one's moral beliefs.

Yes, although I wouldn't say that the beliefs need to be "internally consistent," especially not in others' assessments.

Also, despite the non-existence of objective moral values - we CAN inter-subectively agree on various moral beliefs.

Sure, we can agree. I'm not a fan of the word "intersubjective." It looks like the ontological category terms "objective" and "subjective," as if it would be a different, third category, as if it would cover something that the other two terms miss, but it isn't/it doesn't.

I'll bet all three of us intersubjectively believe raping a child is wrong.

No need to specify "child" there. I'm morally against forceful, nonconsensual sex in general.
• 1.4k
I'm not a fan of the word "intersubjective." It looks like the ontological category terms "objective" and "subjective," as if it would be a different, third category, as if it would cover something that the other two terms miss, but it isn't/it doesn't.
Objectivity is not attainable, but intersubjectivity is and it serves almost the purpose because it establishes the beliefs we have in common. It is an intersubjective belief that rape is wrong, and therefore something to be prevented - no need to debate that.
• 13.8k
Objectivity is not attainable, but intersubjectivity is and it serves almost the purpose because it establishes the beliefs we have in common. It is an intersubjective belief that rape is wrong, and therefore something to be prevented - no need to debate that.

"Objective" isn't something we can be insofar as our mentalities go, sure . . . I don't normally think about it in those terms because I don't know why anyone would want to be it in the first place, as it would literally require losing your mind.

As subjective beings in an almost completely objective world--including the rest of our bodies, we can experience what other people say, we can express agreement, we can interact with those other people, etc., sure.

I don't agree that something should be done/followed just because others agree, though, and I wouldn't say that's necessary for things that should be done or followed . . . although of course in the latter case, if others don't agree, it can be difficult if not close to impossible to institute something.
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