• darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Moral anti-realism is the meta-ethical branch of various theories underneath which all subscribe to the view that value, morality, and normativity are somehow dependent on the mind to exist. According to anti-realist theories of morality, there is no objective difference between actions, events, states of affairs, etc in terms of normative value.

    This of course has a surface of dualism to it, which may or may not be sustained under further development. Where does the mind end and the rest of the world begin? At what point does something become moral within a mind? More importantly, why does something become moral in the mind, and why does this morality not correspond to the world in some way?

    Preliminary answers to this might be that the mind (whatever it ends up being) does not always agree with how the universe operates. The universe might have its own agenda and we're just along for the ride. Other answers would likely try to criticize any apparent teleology in the world: there might not be a telos to a planetary orbit that makes the orbit a "good" orbit (in the sense that it is fulfilling some kind of perfection, utility, or role). The latter argument is definitely dualistic in the sense that only the mind has value, whereas the former may or may not be dualistic but still maintains that for our purposes as sentient organisms, the operation of the universe is not of priority (morality becomes a certain kind of value). In any case both reject objective moral value and thus reject any sort of transcendental value, divine command theory, or moral naturalism (which is quite different than metaphysical naturalism).

    So, if we're moral anti-realists, does this change how we do ethics? When we do substantial normative ethics, we seem to operate under the belief that further moral beliefs can be right or wrong. Even a non-cognitivist, who ultimately believes that moral beliefs have no truth-aptness, still would operate under a kind of fictional representation of morality - i.e. an as if belief, as if morality was actually objective (but really it isn't).

    I believe it was Moore who argued that no matter the reality of morality, we still have to make decisions. The moral nihilist doesn't suddenly just not make decisions - anyone of sound mind clearly makes rational and articulated decisions, based upon what is perceived as value:

    For example, surely anyone would pick a world in which the population is happy vs a world in which the population is sad. There's an implied value to this comparison that allows us to make a decision.

    But if, as the moral anti-realist claims, value is entirely a mental illusion, how could we possibly come to a conclusion on a normative problem, except by pragmatic necessities? How are we able to condemn other people for being immoral, or affirm the value of our own personal moral beliefs?

    I think that the answer to this would be that this kind of behavior requires an element of counterfactual fiction. If we both believe in the same basic principles (such as the value of pleasure, the disvalue of pain, the power of logic, and the susceptibility of moral claims to logical analysis), then we can dismiss wrong beliefs as wrong within the fictional framework. We have to pretend that our normative beliefs correspond to reality, as if objective morality is actually there.

    Without this framework, anti-realist normative debates would seem to be destined to be quite short indeed, as there would be no way to legitimately evaluate two different claims.
  • Michael
    8.2k
    But if, as the moral anti-realist claims, value is entirely a mental illusion...darthbarracuda

    I don't think it's correct to call value an illusion, although it might be correct to say that value-realism is an illusion.

    I think that the answer to this would be that this kind of behavior requires an element of counterfactual fiction. If we both believe in the same basic principles (such as the value of pleasure, the disvalue of pain, the power of logic, and the susceptibility of moral claims to logical analysis), then we can dismiss wrong beliefs as wrong within the fictional framework. We have to pretend that our normative beliefs correspond to reality, as if objective morality is actually there.

    Why must such a framework be considered fictional? Like the above, I think it's incorrect to talk about such things as if they're not real, even though it might be correct to talk about such things as if they're not realist.

    The implicit notion here that if a thing isn't objective – that if it isn't true as a matter if mind-independent fact – then it's somehow fake or lesser is misguided – particularly when it being some objective, mind-independent fact is nonsensical, as I would argue is the case when it comes to value.

    Being that the only kind of value is the value that we project onto things it then follows that these anti-realist values are as real as any values can be - these are what real values are; these anti-realist moral frameworks are what real moral frameworks are.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    A virtue ethics, such as an Aristotelian view, may well be pragmatic and be equally available to realists or anti-realists. I don't see the need for 'fiction'. (Nor do I think that anti-realists need to believe in a thing called 'mind'.)

    What do people praise or blame? What can we generalise from these beginnings about virtues and vices? How can we build from this to make the polis or society work well? How can we then foster the right qualities in individuals, and how do individuals cultivate them in themselves? That's how Aristotle himself builds up his ethics. When we find there are differences between us, we negotiate, looking for common ground. Or we vote, where we can't agree. Or we go to war, if other city-states just refuse to see how wonderfully well-organised the Athenian city-state/the American way of life is.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    To put it another way: moral realists' data is the world outside of our minds, in which the semantic content of our normative expressions is the same kind as that of regular old expressions. Correspondence to some actual moral property which makes the statements truth-apt. Yet anti-realism denies the existence of morals independent of our minds - there is no correspondence to some actual moral property. So how are anti-realist statements ever truth apt? If there is no correspondence to some actual moral property in the world external to our minds, the what does the statement correspond to which could make it true or false?

    That is why I said anti-realist normative debates would seem to require some element of fiction or as if discussion. Debate morality as if it actually exists outside of our minds. Which would unfortunately put many positions on the frying pan, as any anti-realist could just deny the reality of whatever someone is claiming and that's that.
  • Michael
    8.2k
    Yet anti-realism denies the existence of morals independent of our minds - there is no correspondence to some actual moral property.darthbarracuda

    This doesn't follow. If moral properties are mind-dependent – as anti-realists say they are – then moral propositions can still correspond to moral properties even if they don't correspond to something external to the mind.

    Or they might reject the correspondence account of truth (at least when it comes to moral propositions). They might argue that moral propositions are made true by cohering with some agreed upon framework.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    True, however in many (or most) normative ethical debates, there are appeals to things outside of our minds, like states of affairs or persons or whatnot. How do cognitivist anti-realists decide what interpretation of the data is right without pretending there is value in the external world?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    I'm a moral antirealist, as I'm sure you know, and I'm also a physicalist, as I'm also sure you know.

    This of course has a surface of dualism to it, which may or may not be sustained under further development. Where does the mind end and the rest of the world begin?darthbarracuda

    Mind is identical to particular brain states. Mind ends and the rest of the world begins where those brain states end and the rest of the world begins.

    At what point does something become moral within a mind? More importantly, why does something become moral in the mind, and why does this morality not correspond to the world in some way?

    I believe that ethical judgments are essentially "yaying" or "booing" interpersonal behavior--interpersonal behavior that one considers more socially significant than matters of etiquette or manners. (Also note that "interpersonal" can be behavior towards oneself.)

    It's not just arbitrarily yaying or booing behavior. It's yaying or booing based on "deep"/gut feelings or "intuitions" and instincts, many of which are evolutionarily biased.

    X is moral(ly preferable) to S just in case S feels that x is desirable, preferable, permissible, recommendable etc. behavior, or just in case S feels that x (the behavior in question) is necessary to achieve y, some desirable, preferable, etc. state of affairs.

    Something "becomes moral in the mind" when mental states (so brain states, that is) amount to the above from a first person perspective.

    The reason it does not correspond to the world in some way is that no matter where you look in the world, you can not find yaying or booing or feeling that something is desirable, preferable, etc. in the extramental world.

    Other answers would likely try to criticize any apparent teleology in the world:

    Yes, purposes/goals are mental phenomena. They do not occur outside of that.

    The latter argument is definitely dualistic in the sense that only the mind has value,

    We could say that anything that says that only some things have property x as "dualistic" but it would be important in a context like this to stress that "dualism" isn't referring to physical/non-physical ontological/metaphyhsical dualism. A lot of people automatically read the word "dualism" that way.

    So, if we're moral anti-realists, does this change how we do ethics?

    Aside from people who believe that morality strictly comes from God, and so they check their Bibles or whatever to see if something is moral, I don't believe it changes how we do ethics at all. Since there are no extramental moral yays or boos, people have always had to use their own feelings/judgments to do ethics.

    When we do substantial normative ethics, we seem to operate under the belief that further moral beliefs can be right or wrong.

    But no matter what you do, you can't actually check anywhere in the extramental world to see whether something is objectively right or wrong. People have always relied on their own feelings, their own intuitions and reasoning, etc.

    Even a non-cognitivist, who ultimately believes that moral beliefs have no truth-aptness, still would operate under a kind of fictional representation of morality - i.e. an as if belief, as if morality was actually objective (but really it isn't).

    That part isn't true. Maybe some people do that, but certainly not everyone does. I do not, for example.

    I believe it was Moore who argued that no matter the reality of morality, we still have to make decisions. The moral nihilist doesn't suddenly just not make decisions - anyone of sound mind clearly makes rational and articulated decisions, based upon what is perceived as value:

    This part is pertinent to people who say, "I have no moral stances whatsoever." They're like those folks who claim to have no beliefs. They actually do have moral stances, they just don't call them that. Same with beliefs. Everyone has beliefs, but some people refuse to call them that.

    Moral anti-realists/noncognitivists in general, though, do not deny that we make moral judgments. We just deny that they're anything more than us feeling however we do.

    For example, surely anyone would pick a world in which the population is happy vs a world in which the population is sad.

    I don't actually know about that, but I know some pretty weird people. At any rate, the vast majority of people would pick that, sure.

    There's an implied value to this comparison that allows us to make a decision.

    When I make my choice, I'm telling you what I'd prefer. I'm not pretending that there's some sort of objective value.

    But if, as the moral anti-realist claims, value is entirely a mental illusion,

    No. It's not any sort of illusion. Mental states are what moral stances ARE. There's nothing illusory about that. You're seeing it from an objectivist perspective, where you're assuming that what moral stances are are some sort of extramental whatevers. And then you're parsing the alternative (that it's only mental) as an illusion, as if we all really believe that moral stances are some sort of extramental whatevers. But we don't all believe that.

    how could we possibly come to a conclusion on a normative problem, except by pragmatic necessities?

    Moral stances are always ultimately how we feel about interpersonal behavior, the treatment of others, etc. It shouldn't be a mystery that we can feel ways about things (unless one has some sort of psychological block re emotions, preferences, etc.) We can reason based on our feeling ("I feel that everyone should have shelter. Therefore, it's morally right to offer lodging to homeless people" for example--the second statement is a reasoned conclusion based on the first), but ultimately it comes down to us feeling particular ways, having preferences, etc.

    How are we able to condemn other people for being immoral, or affirm the value of our own personal moral beliefs?

    Having preferences means that we don't like some things--and quite strongly we don't like some things. That's all that condemnation is. Affirmation shouldn't be a mystery. It's what preferences are in the first place.

    I think that the answer to this would be that this kind of behavior requires an element of counterfactual fiction. If we both believe in the same basic principles (such as the value of pleasure, the disvalue of pain, the power of logic, and the susceptibility of moral claims to logical analysis), then we can dismiss wrong beliefs as wrong within the fictional framework.

    "Wrong" morally is just "booing" something.

    We have to pretend that our normative beliefs correspond to reality, as if objective morality is actually there.

    No, that doesn't follow at all. Again, I do not at all do this. It seems like you've been an objectivist, and so you're trying to parse anti-realism from within an objectivist framework to make sense of it.

    Without this framework, anti-realist normative debates would seem to be destined to be quite short indeed, as there would be no way to legitimately evaluate two different claims.

    You're not evaluating different moral stances for their truth values. Since morals are about interpersonal behavior, it's important for our preferences that alternate preferences aren't instantiated socially instead. So moral disagreements amount to attempting others to change their preferences, or at least allow room for alternate preferences where possible. One way we can do that is by appealing to consistency re the various preferences that someone has. That takes exploration.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    True, however in many (or most) normative ethical debates, there are appeals to things outside of our minds, like states of affairs or persons or whatnot. How do cognitivist anti-realists decide what interpretation of the data is right without pretending there is value in the external world?darthbarracuda

    Anti-realists aren't saying that there aren't real states of affairs that moral judgments are about. We're just saying that the moral judgments themselves are not real (that is, extramental).

    So when we appeal to states of affairs, we're pointing out facts that can influence one's mental judgment re behavioral preferences.

    Forget about morality for a moment. Imagine that I'm writing a song or painting a picture. I show it to my friend, Paul. He says he's not quite satisfied with it. So I play some different chords, or add a couple colors/tweak some shapes. I ask whether he likes it better now. Whether he likes it is a matter of how he feels about it. But no one is saying that the chords/soundwaves or that the paints I applied or the shapes on the canvas, etc. are not real/objective.

    Pointing out facts about states of affairs in an ethical debate is like changing chords or adding colors. It's giving the person other information to think about re how they feel about the situation.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    So how are anti-realist statements ever truth apt?darthbarracuda

    For some anti-realists, such as me, they aren't truth-apt. I'm a noncognitivist on ethics (and aesthetics and some other things, too).

    It depends on the truth theory one is using, though, as Michael pointed out above. Coherence theorists can say that moral stances are truth-apt because what makes something true isn't correspondence to some objective state of affairs. It's coherence with the other propositions that are accepted as true.

    If there is no correspondence to some actual moral property in the world external to our minds, the what does the statement correspond to which could make it true or false?

    That is why I said anti-realist normative debates would seem to require some element of fiction or as if discussion.

    When I say that "x should be the case" in a moral context, I mean either:

    (a) That I prefer that x is the case,
    (b) That I prefer y, which I believe is contingent on x being the case,
    (c) People that I care about, whom I prefer to be happy/satisfied/etc., are people for whom either (a) or (b) are true, or for whom I believe that (a) or (b) would be true for them contra alternatives, even though they might not think this yet or might not have considered it.

    Some combination of those can all be the case, too.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    If morality is dependent on how you feel, and if feelings are notoriously illogical, does it make sense for your flavor of anti-realism to use logical reasoning to arrive at an emotional conclusion?
  • andrewk
    2.1k
    if feelings are notoriously illogicaldarthbarracuda
    I don't think feelings are illogical. That would suggest that they are in conflict with logic. Hume demonstrated convincingly (to me, at least) that there cannot be a conflict between logic and feeling, as logic is the servant of feeling and has no values of its own to set in opposition to the values inherent in one's feelings.

    In moral reflection, one can use logic to work out the best way to satisfy one's moral feelings.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    In moral reflection, one can use logic to work out the best way to satisfy one's moral feelings.andrewk

    I think I can agree to this. Fundamentally the reaction I have to things I consider moral or immoral is some sort of approval or disapproval. From this I can figure out what makes it the case that I feel this way about something.

    However what happens if our moral beliefs are illogical? What happens when, upon further analysis, we find that the moral belief does not conform to logic, or is ad hoc, or begs the question? Which takes precedence, the illogical belief or the logic?
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    What worries me with some forms of anti-realism is that we seem to (or at least I do) find many normative beliefs to be true, and true in virtue of something external to our minds, i.e. an objective aspect of reality. But if we come to the conclusion that there nothing external to us is actually moral, or actually valuable, outside of our projections on them, then that seems to dampen our commitment to these beliefs. If there really is no difference between A and B besides how I feel about A and B, and if how I feel about A and B is at least in part dependent on my belief that A and B are objectively valuable, then my belief that A and B are not objectively valuable is incompatible with the belief that A and B are, which in turn threatens the motivational aspect of morality in general.
  • Wayfarer
    8.7k
    I don't know about equating 'anti-realism' with 'dependent on the mind'. I think anti-realism would be better expressed as 'a matter of individual judgement or opinion'. The expression 'external to our minds' is problematical, as (for example) language, logic, and indeed philosophy are in an important sense 'mind dependent' but are no less real for that.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    What worries me with some forms of anti-realism is that we seem to (or at least I do) find many normative beliefs to be true, and true in virtue of something external to our minds, i.e. an objective aspect of reality. But if we come to the conclusion that there nothing external to us is actually moral, or actually valuable, outside of our projections on them, then that seems to dampen our commitment to these beliefs. If there really is no difference between A and B besides how I feel about A and B, and if how I feel about A and B is at least in part dependent on my belief that A and B are objectively valuable, then my belief that A and B are not objectively valuable is incompatible with the belief that A and B are, which in turn threatens the motivational aspect of morality in general.darthbarracuda
    This sounds simply to me like you're coming from a perspective of seeing, or having previously seen, at least aspects of ethics/morality as objective, and from under that ideological umbrella, you're trying to understand anti-realism/subjectivism/noncognitivism.

    It's important to realize this, because anti-realism/subjectivism/noncognitivism isn't going to parse well under an objectivist framework. To understand it, you need to try to understand it as anti-realists etc. do. That doesnt mean you need to agree with them, but you need to try to put yourself in those shoes if you want to get a better handle on how it works under that framework.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    I think anti-realism would be better expressed as 'a matter of individual judgement or opinion'.Wayfarer
    Which, of course, makes it mind-dependent.
    The expression 'external to our minds' is problematical, as (for example) language, logic, and indeed philosophy are in an important sense 'mind dependent' but are no less real for that.
    If they're mind-dependent, and we're defining "real" as "not mind dependent," then they wouldn't be real. That's fairly simple, no? It's just a matter of how we're defining "real." Typically in philosophical discussions realism/anti-realism is the distinction of mind-independent/mind-dependent, where using the term that way stems from scholasticism by way of platonic ideas about the "real."
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    You have any examples of how anti-realist normative literature compares to realist normative literature? I'm getting conflicting information on this. Some argue as you have that anti-realism eliminates certain normative theories, while other claim it doesn't do anything to the debate.
  • Wayfarer
    8.7k
    If they're mind-dependent, and we're defining "real" as "not mind dependent," then they wouldn't be real. That's fairly simple, no? It's just a matter of how we're defining "real." — Terrapin_Station

    It's also a matter of how you're defining 'mind'! The notion of 'mind-independent', in the sense being used here, is very much a product of scientific or naive realism, it has nothing to do with scholastic realism, which is about the reality of universals and other abstracts. So by using 'mind independent' in that modern sense, the implication is that 'what is real' is 'what exists independently of any mind'. But if you drill down on that idea, it is philosophically problematical for reasons that go beyond the scope of this thread, but are still relevant to it.
  • unenlightened
    4k
    I am a monetary antirealist; I don't belive money has any intrinsic value. But I know the people at Walmart like to collect it so I take some to them and they let me have food which does have intrinsic value.
  • Janus
    8.5k


    I think value is dependent on mind/body to think and feel it and morality is dependent on mind/body to think and act it. I don't believe it has anything to do with "normativity' which I see as being an utterly empty notion.

    So, if the anti-realist view wants to separate mind from body, and render everything mind-dependent then it is really eliminating body as being anything other than a function of mind.

    Thus this question
    Where does the mind end and the rest of the world begin?darthbarracuda
    has no real sense in such a standpoint.

    And this question
    At what point does something become moral within a mind? More importantly, why does something become moral in the mind, and why does this morality not correspond to the world in some way?darthbarracuda
    would, I guess, be answered by the anti-realist in terms of the mere relativism of doxa. Thus something does not "become moral, but is merely thought to become moral. And no morality corresponds to the world or anything in the world because there is no world but only the idea of a world. So, there is only the idea of morality and the idea of a world. And an idea of morality may correspond to an idea of the world; there would seem to be no mystery in what is merely a matter of stipulation for the anti-realist.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.