• khaled
    1.2k
    Well the 'controversial' cases are, by their very nature, ones about which we have conflicting moral intuitions. For example, torturing an innocent person for fun is intuited to be wrong by virtually everyone, which is why there is no serious dispute about its morality. But abortions, for example, are cases about which people have no very clear intuitions and thus are cases where people typically appeal to theories rather than intuition. As equally plausible theories deliver conflicting verdicts about such cases, disagreement reigns.

    What to do? Well, we can't appeal to intuition, because intuitions are not clear. But we can appeal to imaginary cases (or real cases) that seem sufficiently similar and that elicit from us clearer intuitions. We can then infer from their similarity a conclusion about the controversial case.
    Bartricks

    Ok. I would have decribed this as "There is no answer to moral questions" but I see we effectively agree even though we use different words for it
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    but "there is no answer" is quite different from "there is no way of knowing the answer".
    There are answers to all of them. Some are clear, some not.
    For instance, there is an answer to the question "what was Caesar's favorite breakfast" even though we may never be able definitively to answer it. Some moral questions may be like this too.
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    I’m still not understanding the distinction. It seems that negative attitudes are also mental representations.TheHedoMinimalist

    A mental representation 'represents' something to be the case, and is thereby capable of being accurate or inaccurate. By contrast 'disliking' something can't be accurate or inaccurate. So, although negative attitudes - such as dislike - are mental states, they are not 'representations'.

    An 'intuition' is a representation. Moral theorizers are not appealing to feelings - for that would make moral philosophy a branch of psychology - but to intuitions.

    I think you are misunderstanding my argument. I’m saying that all moral theories must make evaluative judgements. This is also true of deontological and other non-consequentialist theories. For example, A non-consequentialist philosopher like yourself likely does not believe that all wrong actions are equally wrong. This means that there must be a non-arbitrary way for you to say that some actions are more wrong than others.TheHedoMinimalist

    It is intuitions - rational representations - that provide the non-arbitrary basis for my theory. My theory, note, is an anti-theory. (And a highly respectable one at that - it is known as 'moral particularism'). Those other theories arbitrarily alight on some moral intuitions and then ignore others (namely, those with which their theories conflict). I don't arbitrarily ignore any, I just non-arbitrarily resist the temptation for formulate moral rules. So moral particularism is an anti-theory normative theory: it is a theory that has no substantial normative content, for we resist the urge to impose ourselves on the moral landscape and instead we just urge people to observe it.

    So, what's the best evidence that killing an innocent for fun is wrong? Is it that so-and-so theory says it is wrong? no, it is that it appears to be wrong. I have arrived at the conclusion that killing an innocent for fun is wrong on a non-arbitrary basis, then. I have appealed to no theory, just to intuitions (which is what any normative theory worth its salt will do as well, it is just that the theory will 'arbitrarily' appeal to some and ignore others).

    I argued that you do not have a non-arbitrary way of saying that the wrongness of torturing Tom is more wrong than the wrongness of something like lying to your boss about being sick to avoid work.TheHedoMinimalist

    I take it I have just answered that. Yes I do - I appeal to intuitions, which is non-arbitrary. It is those who theorise who are guilty of being arbitrary, for they arbitrarily appeal to some intuitions and not others.

    Having a nice neat theory does not prevent one from being guilty of arbitrariness. Here's a theory: if it is Tuesday, it is wrong to kill innocents. If it is Wednesday it is right to do so. Now, that's a theory and it delivers consistent verdicts, but it is doing so in an arbitrary fashion.

    I think you are assuming that until or unless one appeals to some kind of principle or rule one's judgements will be 'arbitrary'. That's just false. Rules do nothing whatsoever to prevent one's judgements from being arbitrary.

    I am being non-arbitrary precisely because I appeal to intuitions about cases, not arbitrary rules.

    You seem to think that the extent of wrongness of an action could be reasonably hypothesized by a weird mixture of people’s combined intuitions and a possible dismissal of some intuitions if they gave our ancestors an advantage in replicating their DNA in the past.TheHedoMinimalist

    The word 'weird' in there is expressive. You're not arguing against my thesis, just expressing your disapproval or surprise at it.

    Also, that's not my view. The wrongness of an action is not made of intuitions. It is rather something our intuitions give us insight into. Our faculty of intuition, however, is not infallible. And sometimes we have good reason to be sceptical about what our intuitions represent to be the case.

    Now, that's not a 'weird' thesis. It is sensible. It is the thesis any reasonable person has about other faculties, such as 'sight'. Our sight gives us insight into our sensible surroundings, yes? But it is not infallible and sometimes we have reason to think that what our sight is telling us is not accurate. If, for instance, everyone has just taken a hallucinogen, then the subsequent reports of our sight are not likely to be accurate. So, although visual representations provide prima facie evidence of what they represent to be the case, they do not invariably do so and circumstances can arise in which it would be quite irrational to accord them any eight.

    Apply that to moral intuitions. Moral intuitions provide prima facie evidence of what they represent to be the case (if an act appears wrong, that is prima facie evidence that it is wrong). But sometimes - not always and not by default, but sometimes - we have reason to think that a moral intuition, though widely shared, does not have any probative force.

    Note, no theory is needed here. And most people - I mean, everyone I have met to date - lack normative theories, yet seem perfectly good moral judges.

    Anyway, getting back to what might discredit a moral intuition: it is widely (though not universally) acknowledged that if we can provide a wholly evolutionary explanation of why we are subject to certain intuitions, then this casts doubt on their probative force. Again, that's not a weird thesis, but is rather one that is capable of sophisticated defence. I did not provide that defence, I merely gestured at it.

    But here is the basic idea. Take a sense of the divine. It's near universal among humans. Why? Well, one explanation is that being disposed to get the impression there's a divine purpose to things confers an evolutionary advantage upon those who have it. Those who believed in such things would be happier and thus more reproductively successful. Thus the disposition to get the impression of a divine purpose is passed on.

    Do we have to posit any actual gods in order to explain why a sense of the divine conferred an advantage? No, it would seem not (maybe we do - but I am just going to assume we do not for the sake of illustration). Thus, this evolutionary explanation - if accurate (and I am not saying it is) - would serve to discredit the sense of the divine. It might - might - still be accurate, but it would be pure luck if it was.

    We can apply this to the hallucinogen example as well. Imagine everyone has just taken a hallucinogen and then everyone starts seeing monsters. Well, in this case the best explanation of why everyone is seeing monsters is not that there are monsters, but that their sight is malfunctioning due to the hallucinogen.

    Now apply this to some moral intuitions. A moral intuition that procreation is morally okay is one that is likely to be selected for (as those - such as myself - who get the intuition that it is not okay, tend not to procreate). If - if - that is the full explanation of why most humans get that intuition, then it serves to undermine it. Why? Because the act's actual morality plays no role in the explanation. The intuition may be accurate, but it would be pure chance if it was. And thus it no longer has any evidential force.

    This does not, I think, apply to all moral intuitions, just some (just as it would be ludicrous to dismiss all visual reports just because 'some' are unreliable). And thus it enables a moral particularist such as myself non-arbitrarily to dismiss some moral intuitions and not others.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223
    First, I'd want to say that I think slavery has probably never been morally okBartricks

    I understand that you wish to avoid talking about the emotive issues but I’m actually kinda curious about what reason would you have to dismiss the intuitions of past people regarding slavery. You managed to dismiss the intuitions that people have about procreation being permissible and the intuition that people had in the past about homosexuality by appealing to something akin to an evolutionary bias explanation for why people hold that intuition. It seems that you can’t use the evolutionary bias explanation for dismissing the past intuitions that people had about slavery. At the very least, it is not entirely obvious that thinking that slavery is permissible has evolutionary advantages.

    Note too that our moral intuitions give us insight into the current morality of actions. Just as my eyesight tells me about what's around me 'at the moment' and not last century, likewise our moral intuitions give us insight into what's right and wrong today, not right and wrong last century.Bartricks

    Well, if we are going to make an analogy between eyesight and “moral sight” then morality is not only relative to the time period and the culture in which you live but also the immediate space around you. This would imply individual moral relativism instead of cultural relativism. This is because you only have moral sight about your own moral intuition and you might not understand the moral intuitions of others. This implies that you only have insight about your own intuitions and you can’t actually have any idea about what others believe unless you take the time to read surveys that people answer about their moral opinions. This would imply that a person who is living under a rock would have no reason to consider the intuitions of others since he only “has sight” about his own intuitions. This would imply that our own intuitions are accurate representations of right and wrong for us but not for anyone that disagrees with us. I actually consider individual relativism to be a superior theory to the cultural relativism which you implied later in your comment. Though, I do not support this theory completely, I think it has no problem that your culturally relative theory doesn’t have. I would like to proceed this discussion by trying to convince you that maybe you should consider adopting this closely related theory instead of your current theory. It would be a philosophical improvement on your part in my opinion.

    So, by hypothesis, Xing seems wrong to virtually everyone today. Now - given my view (the view that morality can and does change over time) - that is excellent evidence that it is wrong today. Note, then, that I am not dismissing contemporary intuitions about the morality of xing - far from it, I am respecting them.Bartricks

    I have another hypothesis that could explain why different people might have different intuitions about Xing and the case of Tom. It is possible that this simply implies that individual relativism instead of cultural relativism is true. You have a certain way of seeing moral actions and I have a different way of seeing moral actions. This implies that the torture of Tom is justified for me but not justified for you. Just as it can be justified for a North Korean and not justified for an American. It seems that you had opened up this door for individual relativism to be true by arguing that morality is relative to space as well. Why not argue that morality is relative to the immediate space around you instead of being relative to nationality? After all, the isn’t a technically correct way to divide up space and cultures. Within a “main” culture there could be sub-cultures and sub-sub-cultures. Eventually, we can simply argue that each individual has his own unique “culture”. It could be argued that I’m not just an American but also a Russian American and I’m also part of the culture of my extended and nuclear family. But, I also have disagreements with my family on certain moral intuitions so maybe I just have my own unique culture that is different from everyone else’s culture. Thus, the concept of culture could only be divided ultimately to the individual himself.

    Most people, of course, are likely to insist that Xing was 'always' wrong. But here, I think, they are simply giving expression to how obviously wrong Xing currently is.Bartricks

    I would disagree. It is not uncommon for people to hold time specific intuitions about cases of applied ethics. For example, most modern people might think that an action called “Ying” is wrong at Time A but not Time B. So, what would be an example of such “Ying” type action? Well, most people might think that it’s wrong for me to force an employee of mine to come to work during Christmas unexpectedly and have him do non-urgent work he could easily complete the day after. Even if the employee agreed to those conditions prior to accepting his job offer, it might be wrong for the boss to unexpectedly have the employee come to work and do trivial tasks during the most important time of the year for him. Because people are usually able to consider timing as a factor for their intuition, I don’t think it’s plausible to interpret the expression that “Xing is always wrong” to “Xing is obviously wrong today”. It may be argued that people are simply unable to imagine themselves growing up in the 1800s and thus their moral intuitions about Xing in the 1800s are simply unreliable. But, this logic could be applied to every individual case as well. I might argue that most people do not know what it’s like to be me and have my intuitions and thus their intuitions about my moral beliefs are simply unreliable. When someone says that it would be wrong for TheHedoMinimalist to torture Tom to make everyone happy, they are really just saying that it’s obviously wrong to them. Thus, it would be more plausible for you to say that people’s intuitions are reliable for their own moral judgements but not reliable for the moral judgements of others.

    In the past it was intuitively obvious to virtually everyone that Xing was right. Now it is intuitively obvious to virtually everyone that Xing is wrong. Now, given your view one group is mistaken. Which one? Well, it would be quite arbitrary to just assume the past group was the mistaken one. I mean, why think that?? It is just as likely to be those around today who are mistaken. After all, given this variation across time - variation about something fixed - we know that our moral intuitions are quite unreliable. So, you - it seems to me - are now committed to having to say that it is just as likely that Xing today is wrong as it is that it is right.Bartricks

    Well, you seem to be assuming that intuitions about cases of applied ethics are the most important cases for determining morality. I had already given you my argument that certain normative aims are more plausible than others if they have better comeasurabity. If my argument for “The Comeasurability Requirement” is plausible then any moral position which is incompatible with that value theory intuition is false. Of course, you might be wondering what if some people have different intuitions than me on value theory? Well, I tend to think that value theory is a pretty technically complicated topic more so than applied ethics. Because of this, most people have little to no intuitions about value theory. If the majority of philosophers with a strong interest in value theory disagrees with me on value theory, then this is not necessarily strong evidence that my views are wrong. This is because value theory is a pretty complicated topic and it’s possible for even an expert to be mistaken about their own intuitions. The vagueness of language also makes it difficult to make the implicit intuitions that we hold about basic values explicit. Thus, it’s entirely possible that there are universal intuitions about value theory which suggests that some normative aims are better than others. We simply do not have complete access to them and must form theories to help better understand them. It’s also possible that if people fully understood that their intuitions about cases of applied ethics contradict their intuitions about value theory cases, then they would be willing to change their mind about their intuitions about cases of applied ethics.

    But what does someone who insists morality is fixed have to say? Well, they could just dismiss the intuitions of the North Koreans. But on what basis? Looks like a prejudice, plain and simple.Bartricks

    Fair enough, but this would also suggest that we shouldn’t dismiss the intuitions of individuals who are renegades towards the morality of their own culture. If I disagree with some of the intuitions of my society, then why assume that I’m probably wrong for doing so? After all, if there’s a North Korean who dislikes the moral intuitions of the people living in his country, then we wouldn’t say that the intuitions of the people living in his country are evidence against his own moral intuition. Similarly, why would you imply that the fact that my intuitions about Tom are counterintuitive to most people living in the west that this gives someone strong reason to reject my intuitions? To borrow your phrase, I think this is simply a prejudice, plain and simple :wink: . It seems that individual relativism would make more sense than cultural relativism here. I actually used to be an individual relativist in the past and I still consider the theory to be somewhat plausible so I definitely can’t be sure that there is a fixed and universal morality. But, I think “time period” relativism and cultural relativism are far less plausible viewpoints.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223
    A mental representation 'represents' something to be the case, and is thereby capable of being accurate or inaccurate. By contrast 'disliking' something can't be accurate or inaccurate. So, although negative attitudes - such as dislike - are mental states, they are not 'representations'.

    An 'intuition' is a representation. Moral theorizers are not appealing to feelings - for that would make moral philosophy a branch of psychology - but to intuitions.
    Bartricks

    I would argue that people do not actually have prima facie mental representations or intuitions as you call them about moral cases in applied ethics like the case of whether or not the torture of Tom is justified. Rather, they either hold attitudes or beliefs about the case. This is because most people would likely give a deeper explanation for why the torture of Tom is wrong. For example, they might say that it violates God’s will or it violates Tom’s inalienable rights or it is not something that a virtuous person would do or even as simple as saying that it is always wrong to harm people. All these deeper reasons could be argued to constitute a normative ethical theory. Even if their theories are contradictory and not well developed, they are still theoretical reasons that people give for thinking that an action is wrong. I would define a normative ethical theory as a framework of explanations for why some actions are better than others. But, what if someone doesn’t give a deeper explanation for why they think that the torture of Tom is unjustified? In those cases, it seems more plausible for me to suppose that they simply hold a negative attitude about the torture of Tom. This is because mental representations can only exist in 2 forms: sensory perception and imagination. There is no sensory perception that can be responsible for “seeing” that the torture of Tom is wrong. Otherwise, we would be saying that there are 6 senses instead of 5(though, there’s technically more than 5 senses but none of them relate to moral beliefs either way.). We could also have mental representations through our imagination. Imagining something involves us creating a mental representation of that thing. It also doesn’t appear that people who give no deeper explanation for their disapproval of Tom’s torture are imagining Tom getting tortured and everyone being happy as a result in a relatively impartial manner and then concluding that it “appears” wrong. Rather, it seems that they are imagining those things and that imagination prompts them to have an emotional response which forms into a positive or negative attitude towards the case of Tom. Thus, I would argue that without a deeper reason given for disapproval of Tom’s case, we should assume that the disapproval is emotive and fundamentally non-cognitive.

    So, what's the best evidence that killing an innocent for fun is wrong? Is it that so-and-so theory says it is wrong? no, it is that it appears to be wrong.Bartricks

    How does it “appear” wrong? Most people have a deeper reason for why they think that killing is wrong. If they don’t have a deeper reason, then it just “feels” wrong to them. I don’t think the intuitions that you think that people have about murder really exist in reality. People only have beliefs or attitudes that certain actions are wrong. People could only have rational intuitions about the deeper reasons for why they might think an action is wrong.

    Note, no theory is needed here. And most people - I mean, everyone I have met to date - lack normative theories, yet seem perfectly good moral judges.Bartricks

    I think you have a different definition of normative ethical theories than me. Normative ethical theories are frameworks of reasons that one gives for thinking that certain actions are wrong. Most people do have normative ethical theories. They are just not as comprehensive, coherent, well informed or well articulated as the theories of your typical moral philosopher. A perfect example of a simple normative ethical theory is saying that something is wrong because it harms someone. A person might say that murder is wrong because it harms someone. Of course, this is a bad explanation for why murder is wrong. This is because there are plenty of cases where harming someone is justified. But, someone might think that the simple normative theory that simply says “harming is bad” is prima facie correct. Note that saying that murder is wrong because it harms someone implies that one believes that murder is wrong. Whereas, stating that murder is wrong because it appears wrong seems to imply that one only holds an attitude that murder is wrong. I also disagree that most people are perfectly good moral judges without a good foundation in value theory and a well developed normative ethical theory.
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    I understand that you wish to avoid talking about the emotive issues but I’m actually kinda curious about what reason would you have to dismiss the intuitions of past people regarding slavery. You managed to dismiss the intuitions that people have about procreation being permissible and the intuition that people had in the past about homosexuality by appealing to something akin to an evolutionary bias explanation for why people hold that intuition. It seems that you can’t use the evolutionary bias explanation for dismissing the past intuitions that people had about slavery. At the very least, it is not entirely obvious that thinking that slavery is permissible has evolutionary advantages.TheHedoMinimalist

    To say too much on this would be off topic, but there are all manner of debunking explanations possible, not just evolutionary ones. For instance, if something is very much in someone's interests, then there is likely to be strong tendency to ignore intuitions that represent it to be wrong, and in time such intuitions may disappear altogether. Consider that most contemporary people think there's nothing wrong with buying meat, despite the fact the practice of rearing animals to kill them for fun (which is what killing them in order to eat them is) is quite clearly wrong upon reflection. I am sure that future generations will look back at our meat eating practices with horror, just as we do upon the slaving practices of our ancestors.

    Well, if we are going to make an analogy between eyesight and “moral sight” then morality is not only relative to the time period and the culture in which you live but also the immediate space around you.TheHedoMinimalist


    It was only an analogy, designed to reveal the odd nature of most people's reasoning about variation in moral intuitions across history (we don't, for instance, think that because rivers exist externally to our own subjective states that therefore they are fixed across time; yet many think that if morality exists externally, then part and parcel of that externality involves it being fixed, such that evidence of a lack of fixity somehow implies that morality exists in our own minds - bonkers reasoning). So the point of the analogy was to show that there is no necessary connection between morality being 'fixed' and morality being 'external'. Morality is external - whether an act is right or wrong is not a individually or collectively subjective - but this does not mean it is fixed, and if we find that rational intuitions about what's right and wrong have changed over time, then this is prima facie evidence that morality itself has changed.

    Anyway, there are important differences between how our faculty of reason - the source of rational intuitions - works and how our sensible faculties work. To borrow an example from Bertrand Russell, take a library catalogue. A library catalogue tells you what works are in a library. It may - almost certainly will - contain some mistakes. Nevertheless, if you want to find out whether a work is in the library, consulting it is a good bet. However, let's say I go to the library and steal a book. Well, the catalogue won't immediately change to reflect the change in the contents of the library.

    Now, I suggest that this is how our faculty of reason works. It is equivalent to the library catalogue, and the moral norms and values are equivalent to works in the library. It is not a sensible faculty. For a sensible faculty provides one with direct - or near direct - reports about one's surroundings. But our faculty of rational intuition does not provide us with direct reports on our normative and evaluative surroundings. Nevertheless, if you want to find out whether a work is in the library, it is still a good bet to consult the catalogue. And in this particular case, our catalogue and the catalogues of others are the only things we have to go on.

    Imagine that the catalogues from our era represent the moral library - a library we can never visit directly - to have slightly different contents from those from a previous era. What should we conclude? Well, if the representations are systematic - so virtually everyone's catalogue from one era represents a certain book to be present, whereas virtually everyone's catalogue from another era represents it to be absent - then a reasonable conclusion to draw would be that the book used to be in the library but is no longer there.

    This would imply individual moral relativism instead of cultural relativism.TheHedoMinimalist

    It doesn't imply it, it merely allows this possibility to be one we can confirm. Note too, I am not arguing for cultural relativism - I am arguing that it is possible that morality varies over space and time. I am not - absolutely not - arguing that if a group thinks Xing is right, then Xing is right.

    Imagine a detective says that his approach is to look at the crime scene and follow the evidence. Does that approach imply that everyone is guilty? No, of course not. But it does not foreclose the possibility that anyone is guilty, that's all. Not foreclosing such a possibility is not at all equivalent to implying it.

    My approach - which is just to use our moral intuitions as our guide (except where we have good independent reason to discount the moral intuitions in question) - is like the detective's. It is true that such an approach does not foreclose the possibility that some form of individual moral relativism may be true. But that is not equivalent to it 'implying' it.

    And in fact it is a great virtue of my approach that it permits the truth of such views to be discovered, if true they be. Compare that to your approach - you have assumed such views are false, and so your whole approach will never be able to recognise their truth. That's a serious flaw. Not because individual relativism is true - I am not saying it is true - but because it 'may' be, and your approach has put its falsity beyond negotiation.

    Is individual relativism true? Well, not for the most part. But sometimes it does seem to be, precisely because the relationships we come to share with others can give rise to us as individuals having moral responsibilities that others do not. This is something our intuitions tell us. But many norms are universal in nature, as our intuitions themselves tell us. So, by following our intuitions and resisting the urge to formulate rules, we do not commit ourselves to individual relativism at all - we merely open ourselves us to recognising when and where individual relativism applies.

    When someone says that it would be wrong for TheHedoMinimalist to torture Tom to make everyone happy, they are really just saying that it’s obviously wrong to them.TheHedoMinimalist

    I just don't think that's very plausible. Again, I don't deny that it is 'possible' that it is morally ok for you to torture people and wrong for the rest of us to - for I don't decide in advance what shape morality has. But if we stick to the actual evidence, rather than hypothetical evidence, then it is fairly obvious to most that we 'all' have a moral obligation not to torture innocents for fun. Some may not have that intuition - but then it is more reasonable to think that's because their catalogue contains an error than to think that the catalogues of the rest of us contains the error and that theirs is the correct edition.

    So, again, a) why assume that Xing must be wrong for everyone if it is wrong for anyone? b) follow the actual evidence: if the evidence (the intuitions) represent Xing to be wrong for everyone - that is, if the moral intuition does not mention anyone by name - then that's good evidence that it is wrong for everyone.

    I think you are once again confusing what a theory permits, with what it implies. Many of our moral intuitions represent the norms they tell us about to apply universally, not individually. Morality does not 'have' to be universal - it's prescriptions do not have to apply to us all - but most of them do seem to have that character, and the evidence that they do is that they appear to.

    Well, you seem to be assuming that intuitions about cases of applied ethics are the most important cases for determining morality. I had already given you my argument that certain normative aims are more plausible than others if they have better comeasurabity. If my argument for “The Comeasurability Requirement” is plausible then any moral position which is incompatible with that value theory intuition is false.TheHedoMinimalist

    It isn't plausible and I've already argued for my view. You must just make an assumption - an assumption that there is a fixed pattern to morality - and go from there, but that assumption is precisely what I dispute. There is no evidence that there is such a pattern (if there was a fixed pattern, why has no one discovered it?). There is, by contrast, prima facie evidence that morality is unpatterned. Namely, it appears not to be patterned. The appearances in question are 'intuitions'.

    I do not 'assume' that intuitions are our most important source of evidence. I have argued for this. Here is that argument. First, it is by intuition that we are aware of moral norms and values in the first place. We do not see, touch, smell, taste or hear morality, do we? It is by reason that we are aware of it. That is to say, by rational intuition. So, given that this is how we are primarily aware of morality, this is our most important source of evidence into the morality of an action.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223
    A library catalogue tells you what works are in a library. It may - almost certainly will - contain some mistakes. Nevertheless, if you want to find out whether a work is in the library, consulting it is a good bet.Bartricks

    I don’t think it is necessarily a good bet to consult a library catalog. It is possible for a library catalog to be so disorganized and out of date that you would be better off not consulting it. For example, suppose that a library catalog’s software has a bug in it which excludes results between the letters M and Z. You come to the library looking to get a book that starts with the letter R. You decide that the catalog is reliable enough that you only need to consult it and you need not search through the whole library itself. But, it turns out that the software is actually extremely misleading because it tells you that the book you wanted to get isn’t there but it actually was there all along. In that case, we would say that the catalog is far more misleading than helpful. Going back to your analogy between the library catalog and what you see as “rational intuitions” about moral cases, why assume that people’s moral intuitions are like a relatively good library catalog instead of an extremely misleading one? Of course, I actually don’t think that people even have intuitions about cases like the torture of Tom. Rather, they either have intuitions about the deeper reasons for why they think Tom’s torture is unjustified or they simply have a negative gut reaction towards it. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of a “rational mental representation” that people have towards moral cases of Applied Ethics.

    Imagine a detective says that his approach is to look at the crime scene and follow the evidence. Does that approach imply that everyone is guilty? No, of course not. But it does not foreclose the possibility that anyone is guilty, that's all. Not foreclosing such a possibility is not at all equivalent to implying it.

    My approach - which is just to use our moral intuitions as our guide (except where we have good independent reason to discount the moral intuitions in question) - is like the detective's. It is true that such an approach does not foreclose the possibility that some form of individual moral relativism may be true. But that is not equivalent to it 'implying' it.
    Bartricks

    Well, to make an analogy between your approach and the approach of a detective, it is possible for a detective to confuse his gut instinct or the gut instincts of other people that someone is guilty as evidence that someone is guilty. Similarly, I believe that you are likely confusing the gut instincts that other people have against the torture of Tom as evidence when it is really just a moral dislike that most people share.

    And in fact it is a great virtue of my approach that it permits the truth of such views to be discovered, if true they be. Compare that to your approach - you have assumed such views are false, and so your whole approach will never be able to recognise their truth. That's a serious flaw. Not because individual relativism is true - I am not saying it is true - but because it 'may' be, and your approach has put its falsity beyond negotiation.Bartricks

    I think we shouldn’t confuse my approach regarding normative ethics with my approach regarding meta-ethics. I have never assumed that individual relativism is false. Rather, my views against individual relativism are influenced by my views on Axiology which are influenced by my views on the philosophy of mind and epistemology. I believe that individual relativism is most likely false because I think that Axiological Hedonism is true. I have made several arguments for Axiological Hedonism which are influenced by my philosophy of mind and views on epistemology. If my arguments for Hedonism do not work to make my theory plausible, then I might also be wrong about individual relativism. So far, I have never heard a good objection to my views on Axiology so I have no reason to suppose that my arguments do not work to properly support Hedonism.

    But many norms are universal in nature, as our intuitions themselves tell us.Bartricks

    But, how do we know that universally held moral norms are not simply biologically programmed attitudes against certain moral cases? It’s possible that people have moral disgust towards the torture of Tom because human beings evolved to experience moral empathy towards someone getting tortured while not evolving to experience extra strong happiness towards billions of happy people that come as a result. This is because our pre-historic ancestors had no survival advantage by being happy about a world full of billions of happy people who are not their relatives. On the other hand, they had evolved a capacity for empathy towards the pain of a stranger because it made them better at forming cooperative relationships. So, there could actually even be an evolutionary explanation for the disapproval of Tom’s torture as well. Even if there isn’t an evolutionary explanation, we could argue that the gut instinct was simply what Steven Jay Gould might call a spandrel or an accidental by product of the right genes coming together at the right time to form the dislike of using Tom to make everyone happy. As long as this dislike is not harmful to survival and reproduction, it’s possible that an accidental evolutionary trait ends up lasting. There are plenty of human traits that appear completely accidental. For example, I think the enjoyment that humans have for art, music, philosophy, and even oral sex is probably just accidental and has no survival advantage. Yet, those things are still universal to human nature. So, why not assume that people simply have a lot of accidental moral attitudes?

    But if we stick to the actual evidence, rather than hypothetical evidence, then it is fairly obvious to most that we 'all' have a moral obligation not to torture innocents for fun. Some may not have that intuition - but then it is more reasonable to think that's because their catalogue contains an error than to think that the catalogues of the rest of us contains the error and that theirs is the correct edition.Bartricks

    Why is it more reasonable to think that one person’s intuitions are mistaken than to think that everyone’s intuitions are mistaken? There are certainly plenty of cases where one person got it right and everyone else got it wrong. In fact, every great scientist from Galileo to Issac Newton to Albert Einstein to Charles Darwin have argued for theories that almost every other scientist thought was wrong at the time. I think your approach to morality actually makes it very difficult for a Galileo of moral philosophy to come along and challenge everyone else’s gut instincts towards moral cases. This is because he will be continuously dismissed by philosophers like you for arguing for an unpopular opinion regardless of how good his own arguments are.

    Morality does not 'have' to be universal - it's prescriptions do not have to apply to us all - but most of them do seem to have that character, and the evidence that they do is that they appear to.Bartricks

    I’m not understanding how they “appear” to have universal character on your view. I think it would be quite easy for a moral non-cognitivist to argue that people hold attitudes towards moral cases without actually having a rational intuition that says anything about the actual morality of the action. Given this, they could argue that what’s right and wrong is simply relative to our personal taste. I think the best way to argue against non-cognitivism is to argue that certain actions can be good or bad based on how it impacts people’s hedonic well being. This seems like a more plausible claim to me than claiming that people have some kind of a rational intuition towards the case of Tom without being able to even provide a deeper reason for why they are against the torture of Tom.

    It isn't plausible and I've already argued for my view. You must just make an assumption - an assumption that there is a fixed pattern to morality - and go from there, but that assumption is precisely what I dispute.Bartricks

    When did I say that there is a fixed pattern to morality? Would you mind showing me a quote that I wrote which suggested that I believe that there is a fixed pattern to morality. First of all, I’m not sure what you even mean by pattern here. I would define a pattern as being something that allows us to make inferences about something else. In that sense, I do think that there is a pattern to morality but you seem to think that there is a pattern in that sense as well. You seem to think that you can make inferences about moral cases by learning about people’s intuitions. I would call that a type of pattern recognition on your part. So, how is my pattern recognition different from yours here?

    There is no evidence that there is such a pattern (if there was a fixed pattern, why has no one discovered it?). There is, by contrast, prima facie evidence that morality is unpatterned. Namely, it appears not to be patterned. The appearances in question are 'intuitions'.Bartricks

    It seems that your view does not argue that morality is unpatterned. If it was truly unpatterned then I don’t think it would be possible for you to formulate a moral hypothesis. This is because the formulation of an educated guess requires some sort of pattern recognition. Are you not observing patterns in the intuitions of other people regarding moral cases?

    I do not 'assume' that intuitions are our most important source of evidence. I have argued for this. Here is that argument. First, it is by intuition that we are aware of moral norms and values in the first place. We do not see, touch, smell, taste or hear morality, do we? It is by reason that we are aware of it. That is to say, by rational intuition. So, given that this is how we are primarily aware of morality, this is our most important source of evidence into the morality of an action.Bartricks

    I would argue that most people have sometimes rational and sometimes irrational intuitions about value theory and form beliefs about applied ethics on the basis of these intuitions. Some people simply hold attitudes about morality and their opposition to cases like the torture of Tom is entirely emotive in nature. So, I think you are making an assumption that you haven’t defended that people have moral intuitions about cases in applied ethics directly instead of holding intuitions about the reasons for why they hold the opinion that they do in those moral cases. I also think you are overly quick to dismiss the possibility of many of these so-called “rational intuitions” simply being emotional gut reactions.
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    Going back to your analogy between the library catalog and what you see as “rational intuitions” about moral cases, why assume that people’s moral intuitions are like a relatively good library catalog instead of an extremely misleading one?TheHedoMinimalist

    Because the only rational basis upon which one could distrust the catalogue, is on the basis of something in the catalogue.

    All cases for anything and everything must appeal to rational intuitions. I mean, how else do you argue for something?

    So, it is incoherent to think that one could ever have a rational basis for doubting the catalogue's reliability wholesale. It is only because the catalogue itself tells us not to trust our own copies infallibly, that we see reason sometimes to doubt what our catalogues say.

    Of course, I actually don’t think that people even have intuitions about cases like the torture of Tom. Rather, they either have intuitions about the deeper reasons for why they think Tom’s torture is unjustified or they simply have a negative gut reaction towards it. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of a “rational mental representation” that people have towards moral cases of Applied Ethics.TheHedoMinimalist

    I do not understand you here. The intuitions about 'deeper reasons' are going to be rational intuitions, and I do not know what you mean by 'deeper' in this context.

    Most of us do have rational intuitions and moral philosophers are always referring to them and designing thought experiments with the sole end of eliciting them. So it is simply false that there do not seem to be such representations. Humans are subject to rational representations - we understand the language of reason because we have a faculty of reason (most of us, that is). And among its representations are representations about what to do - about how to behave and what sort of person to be.

    If you think that all we have are feelings then that's both false (it may be true of 'you', but it clearly isn't true of most people as most philosophers - now and throughout the history of the subject - have appealed to such intuitions and it is beyond implausible to think that there are no such appearances), and it also means that you're no longer doing moral philosophy, instead you'll just be describing feelings.

    If my arguments for Hedonism do not work to make my theory plausible, then I might also be wrong about individual relativism. So far, I have never heard a good objection to my views on Axiology so I have no reason to suppose that my arguments do not work to properly support Hedonism.TheHedoMinimalist

    Your argument simply assumes that morality is patterned, it does not establish it.

    Axiological hedonism is easily refuted - there are abundant refutations of it. For instance, here's one:

    1. If Axiological hedonism is true, then it is as wrong for me to cause myself harm as it is to cause someone else an equal amount of harm
    2. It is not as wrong for me to cause myself harm as it is to case someone else an equal amount of harm. (For instance, if I hit myself in the face that's not as wrong as hitting someone else in the face, even if the amounts of pain the act causes - both physical and emotional - happen to be identical)
    3. Therefore axiological hedonism is false.

    Here's another:

    1. If axiological hedonism is true, then equal amounts of pleasure matter equally
    2. Equal amounts of pleasure do not matter equally (for example, if two people - one innocent and the other guilty of horrific crimes - are equally happy, their happiness is not equally good, indeed the happiness of the guilty party is arguably positively bad)
    3. Therefore, axiological hedonism is false

    I think it is undeniable that in both cases the second premises enjoy overwhelming intuitive support and the only basis you are going to find to reject those intuitions is that they conflict with axiological hedonism (which is question begging).

    So axiological hedonism is easily refuted. The same is going to be true of any other normative theory that attempts to reduce morality to one simple principle.

    I think we shouldn’t confuse my approach regarding normative ethics with my approach regarding meta-ethics.TheHedoMinimalist

    I have not done that. I take a 'normative theory' to be a theory about what all morally right/wrong acts (and good/bad deeds, traits and states of affair) have in common - if anything - apart from being right/wrong. My moral particularism is the view that they have nothing in common apart from being right/wrong. That's a normative theory, at least on my usage. By contrast a 'metaethical' theory would be a theory about what the rightness itself is.

    For an analogy: we can ask "is there anything all tasty things have in common apart from being tasty?" and we can ask "what is tastiness?" - these are quite distinct questions.

    So, anyway, my moral particularism is the view that there is nothing all right acts have in common apart from being right. I have made a case for it. Take any feature you like, apart from 'moral rightness' and we can - with a bit of imagination - conceive of a case in which that feature seems to be operating as a moral positive, and a case in which it seems to be operating as a moral negative.

    That is prima facie evidence that moral particularism is true.


    First of all, I’m not sure what you even mean by pattern here. I would define a pattern as being something that allows us to make inferences about something else. In that sense, I do think that there is a pattern to morality but you seem to think that there is a pattern in that sense as well.TheHedoMinimalist

    You just did that - if you are not a moral particularist, then you think that morality has a fixed pattern, for your normative theory is an attempt at describing it.

    To clarify what I mean by a 'pattern' to morality: you believe there is a 'pattern' to morality if you think that there must be something that all right acts have in common apart from being right.

    For instance, a utilitarian believes that what all right acts have in common apart from being right is that they maximise happiness.

    A Rawlsian deontologist believes that what all right acts have in common apart from being right is that they are acts that could be rationally consented to by relevantly ignorant impartial deliberators.

    And so on.

    A moral particularist believes there is nothing all right acts have in common apart from being right.

    So, there is no more a pattern to morality than there is to, say, colour. Some things are blue. Is there anything all blue things have in common apart from being blue? Nope.

    Note, we can still make inferences about the colour of things we cannot see on the basis of those we can. If there is an object that I can feel but not see, and the object feels square - and to date all the square things I have seen have been blue - then it is reasonable, at least as a default, to assume that the object I am feeling is probably blue. In making that inference I am not committed to accepting the principle "If an object is square, then it is blue". So, we do not need to assume rigid patterns in order to be able to make reasonable inferences. All we need in order to be able to make inferences is a faculty of reason - and we can just trust it to tell us when and what inferences are justified.

    Anyway, if, then, you think that there just must be something - some underlying feature or features - that all right acts have in common apart from being right (and you clearly do, for otherwise in what sense are you an 'axiological hedonist'?), then you believe in a pattern.

    If you do not, then you are a moral particularist and we agree and our disagreement has been merely apparent, not real.

    If you are a moral particularist, then you should agree that the best method for finding out whether an act is actually right or wrong is to consult our rational intuitions.

    If you're not a moral particularist, then you're going to adopt a bizarre two-step procedure instead, in which one first assumes that there is must be a fixed pattern to morality and then one infers from some selection of our moral intuitions what that pattern is - in your case 'axiological hedonism'. And then one simply applies that principle to a situation and bingo you find out what's right in any and all situations.

    Like I say, I think that's wholly unjustified and just bizarre. The core assumption is unjustified. Why assume that all right acts will have something in common apart from being right? They may do - by why assume it as an article of faith at the outset? And given that any pattern one thinks there may be is going to be justified - to the extent that it is justified - by its being implied by some of our intuitions, it is bizarre to then subsequently ignore the probative force of those that do not imply it.

    So, I think your axiological hedonism is false on its face - it flies in the face of powerful and widely shared moral intuitions that we have no reason to discount. Furthermore, the whole approach - the approach of assuming there must be a pattern and then doing one's best to describe it - is unjustified and bizarre. Or so I have argued.

    This post is becoming too long, so I will write another addressing what you've said about evolution.
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    It seems that your view does not argue that morality is unpatterned. If it was truly unpatterned then I don’t think it would be possible for you to formulate a moral hypothesis. This is because the formulation of an educated guess requires some sort of pattern recognition. Are you not observing patterns in the intuitions of other people regarding moral cases?TheHedoMinimalist

    I am not assuming that morality is patterned, but my approach is one that can recognise a pattern if pattern there be. So, there certainly appears to be a rough-and-ready pattern. But there does not 'have' to be, and my evidence that there is a pattern-of-sorts is that there appears to be. We can make fairly reliable generalisations, such as that if an act is one that will significantly affect another party and the other party has not consented to it, then it's probably wrong. For most acts that have that feature do seem to be wrong, or at least worse than they would be if they lacked it.

    So again, I do not 'assume' a rigid pattern, but that's not equivalent to denying patterns if patterns there appear to be.

    When we look at the evidence - and look at it 'assumption-free' so to speak - then morality appears to be roughly patterned, but not rigidly so. It doesn't 'have' to have a pattern, but it seems to have a pattern of sorts.

    Now that's very different from assuming that it must have a pattern and then setting about describing it. Someone who does that - someone who assumes the task of moral theorising is to describe some once and for all moral rules or principles - is someone who has positively rendered themselves morally blind to a distinct possibility: namely that morality has no rigid pattern. For all the evidence in support of that thesis - and there's an abundance of it - will be rejected on the question-begging ground that it simply conflicts with the rule or principle.

    Again, that strikes me as a bizarre way of doing normative ethics. It is 'the' standard way, of course. But it is no less bizarre for that.

    I think your approach to morality actually makes it very difficult for a Galileo of moral philosophy to come along and challenge everyone else’s gut instincts towards moral cases. This is because he will be continuously dismissed by philosophers like you for arguing for an unpopular opinion regardless of how good his own arguments are.TheHedoMinimalist

    That's clearly false - I am your evidence for the falsity of that statement. I am and have argued that antinatalism is true. That is a view that flies in the face of most people's moral intuitions. Yet here I am defending it! How ironic! You think that unless we cleave to moral rules no moral radicals will emerge. Yet here I am, denying moral rules and arguing for a view - antinatalism - that is about as morally radical as it gets.
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    It’s possible that people have moral disgust towards the torture of Tom because human beings evolved to experience moral empathy towards someone getting tortured while not evolving to experience extra strong happiness towards billions of happy people that come as a result. This is because our pre-historic ancestors had no survival advantage by being happy about a world full of billions of happy people who are not their relatives. On the other hand, they had evolved a capacity for empathy towards the pain of a stranger because it made them better at forming cooperative relationships. So, there could actually even be an evolutionary explanation for the disapproval of Tom’s torture as well. Even if there isn’t an evolutionary explanation, we could argue that the gut instinct was simply what Steven Jay Gould might call a spandrel or an accidental by product of the right genes coming together at the right time to form the dislike of using Tom to make everyone happy. As long as this dislike is not harmful to survival and reproduction, it’s possible that an accidental evolutionary trait ends up lasting.TheHedoMinimalist

    Yes, I agree with all of that. But I said that if the 'sole' explanation for why we get a moral intuition is an evolutionary one, then that debunks the intuition. If, however, the evolutionary explanation is only partial, then the intuition may retain its probative force.

    For example, imagine a divine command theory is true (which it is). That is, imagine that moral rightness and wrongness are prescriptions of a god, prescriptions that our rational intuitions give us some insight into.

    Now imagine that the god is benevolent (which she is). Well, it seems reasonable to suppose that a benevolent god would issue prescriptions that would benefit us: that is, that she'd want us to do thrive and form meaningful relationships and all that stuff. If we follow prescriptions of that sort, then we're also likely to be more reproductively successful than those who did not.

    In this case, then, we have a divine explanation for why it might be that living in accordance with many moral prescriptions has, in the main, proved to be adaptive. And in this case the explanation does not debunk the intuitions at all.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223
    I do not understand you here. The intuitions about 'deeper reasons' are going to be rational intuitions, and I do not know what you mean by 'deeper' in this context.Bartricks

    Ok, imagine that John thinks that the torture of Tom is unjustified. The deeper reason he gives for believing this is because he thinks that God would disapprove of it. He believes that God would disapprove of it because of some argument that he gives that God exists and some argument that he gives that the existent God would likely disapprove of torturing Tom. We’ll refer the former argument that he gives for the existence of God as “Argument A” and the latter argument that he gives for why God disapproves of Tom’s torture as “Argument B”. John then uses “Argument C” to explain why he thinks “Argument A” works to show that God exists. Then he uses “Argument D” to show that “Argument B” works to support his hypothesis that God disapproves of the torture of Tom. Since he doesn’t have any arguments to explain why he thinks Arguments C and D work to properly support Arguments A and B, he can simply say that it’s intuitive for him to think that Arguments C and D adequately defend Arguments A and B. So, intuitions are designed to mark a stopping point for someone’s explanation for why they don’t support the torture of Tom to avoid an infinite regress. The argument that God disapproves of Tom’s torture is John’s level 1 argument. Arguments A and B are his level 2 arguments. Argument C and D are his level 3 arguments. Beyond this, he relies on his intuition. Now, let’s imagine that another person named Jack also thinks that the torture of Tom is unjustified and he also thinks that it’s because God disapproves of it. He also defends this claim with the same Arguments A and B that John uses. But, unlike John, he doesn’t have deeper arguments to support Arguments A and B. So, he says that it’s simply intuitive to him that Arguments A and B work to demonstrate his point. Well, John seems to be the superior moral philosopher here compared to Jack because his arguments appear to be more well developed and he doesn’t have to rely on his intuitions until he reaches a deeper level of explanation. Both John and Jack share their L1 and L2 arguments but John also has L3 arguments. John’s post-L3 intuitions are likely more reliable than Jack’s post-L2 intuitions. Now, let’s imagine that Tiffany thinks that the torture of Tom is unjustified but she gives no argument for why she thinks that it’s the case. In that case, if she simply says that she has an intuition that it’s wrong then her intuitions are so under-developed that they are pretty much just attitudes. So, here’s an argumentation graph for John, Jack, and Tiffany:

    John: Main God argument -> Arguments A and B -> Arguments C and D -> (pretty reliable intuitions unless Arguments A through D are opposed by good counter-arguments)

    Jack: Main God arguments -> Arguments A and B -> (decent intuitions unless Arguments A and B are opposed by good counter-arguments )

    Tiffany: (crappy intuitions that are pretty much just attitudes)

    I hope it makes sense now what I mean by intuitions about deeper reasons being more reliable. Now, here is what my argumentation graph looks like for the justification for Tom’s torture compared to what I think your graph looks like:

    Me: (L1) Argument for the Comeasurability Requirement. In addition, The Degree of Confidence Argument and The Demonstration Argument for Axiological Hedonism which I haven’t yet introduced. -> (L2) Thought experiments that describe why my Comeasurability Requirement should be intuitive to you and the Stock Options analogy that I use to defend both the Epistemic Certainty Argument and The Demonstration Argument for Hedonism -> (My L2 arguments aren’t supported by what appears to be pretty good rational intuitions that I hold but these intuitions may be irrational if there is a good argument against either my L1 or L2 arguments)

    You: (L1) Argument that most people find it counterintuitive that the torture of Tom is justified and this gives us strong reason to think it probably isn’t -> (L2) Argument that intuitions that other people have about cases of applied ethics is the only type of evidence that we have to answer questions about cases of applied ethics -> (Your L2 arguments are supported by what appears to be pretty good rational intuitions that you hold but these intuitions may be irrational if there is a good argument against either your L1 and L2 arguments. I have argued against your L1 arguments just now with my John, Jack, and Tiffany thought experiment and with all the argumentation charts which are designed to show that intuitions can operate on different levels of argumentation and I argued that they are more reliable if they operate on that deeper level. Ironically enough, your argumentation is actually just as deep as mine if not more and so you also seem to think that your beliefs about Tom’s torture are probably better than that of other people if you have deeper arguments to support them. So, it seems to me that if you thought that intuitions are just as reliable at L1 then you would of just said that there’s no deeper reason for why you disapprove of Tom’s torture and this is just an intuition that you hold. But, you seem to recognize that L1 intuitions would amount to nothing more than an attitude and thus you felt that you needed to give a deeper explanation to me for why you think that the torture of Tom is unjustified and I respect you for doing that.)

    Axiological hedonism is easily refuted - there are abundant refutations of it. For instance, here's one:

    1. If Axiological hedonism is true, then it is as wrong for me to cause myself harm as it is to cause someone else an equal amount of harm
    2. It is not as wrong for me to cause myself harm as it is to case someone else an equal amount of harm. (For instance, if I hit myself in the face that's not as wrong as hitting someone else in the face, even if the amounts of pain the act causes - both physical and emotional - happen to be identical)
    3. Therefore axiological hedonism is false.
    Bartricks

    I would argue that both premise 1 and 2 of your argument are false. This is because nothing can be said to be morally right or wrong. Rather, there is only a spectrum of better and worse actions that one could take at any given time. One factor that determines betterness or worseness of an action is the degree of confidence by which a person could say that an action is instrumentally bad. Actions can only be instrumentally bad if they cause something that is intrinsically bad or eliminate something that is intrinsically good. Something is intrinsically bad if it is bad in a final sense rather than bad because it leads to something else that is bad. For example, having a disease is usually thought of as being instrumentally bad. This is because having a disease is only bad because it leads to something else that is bad like it causes you to suffer for example. The most obvious candidate for something that is intrinsically bad is your own suffering from your own point of view. This is because the suffering of a particular person is bad from the point of view of that same particular person in the most obvious way imaginable and there isn’t a deeper explanation for why it is bad. It is just bad for its own sake. The suffering of a particular person is more obviously bad to that particular person than the suffering of other people. It is possible for an extremely skeptical person to doubt that the suffering of others should be consider bad from their point of view but even the most skeptical people cannot deny that their own suffering is intrinsically bad for them and that they have reason not to hurt themselves pointlessly. Thus, any action that causes you to suffer pointlessly has the greatest degree of confidence of being an instrumentally bad action to some extent. Any action that causes others pointless suffering, on the other hand, has a smaller degree of confidence of being an instrumentally bad action to some extent. Thus, we have more reason to minimize suffering in our own lives than we do to minimize suffering in the lives of others. But, in cases where we could either reduce the suffering in our own lives by a little bit or reduce the suffering of the world by a lot, it may be rational to choose to benefit the world. This is why I have donated to Project Prevention despite the fact that I’m mostly an egoist. I might have more reason to prevent the existence of an entire lifetime of suffering than to reduce a little bit of my own suffering with the money that I donated. But, ultimately, I have more reason to minimize my own suffering all things consider equal.

    1. If axiological hedonism is true, then equal amounts of pleasure matter equally
    2. Equal amounts of pleasure do not matter equally (for example, if two people - one innocent and the other guilty of horrific crimes - are equally happy, their happiness is not equally good, indeed the happiness of the guilty party is arguably positively bad)
    3. Therefore, axiological hedonism is false
    Bartricks

    Once again, both premises are false. The first premise is false because my own pleasure counts for more than the pleasure of others since I’m mostly an egoistical hedonist. The second premise is false because no person is more deserving of pleasure than another person. This is because the extent to which someone deserves a pleasure is completely incomeasurable(remember my comeasurability requirement that I explained earlier) and therefore it is impossible to even formulate a reasonable non-arbitrary hypothesis of what kinds of people deserve pleasure more and what kinds of people deserve pleasure less.

    I think it is undeniable that in both cases the second premises enjoy overwhelming intuitive support and the only basis you are going to find to reject those intuitions is that they conflict with axiological hedonism (which is question begging).Bartricks

    I don’t think my degree of confidence argument and my comeasurability requirement argument are question begging so I would have to disagree.

    I have not done that. I take a 'normative theory' to be a theory about what all morally right/wrong acts (and good/bad deeds, traits and states of affair) have in common - if anything - apart from being right/wrong. My moral particularism is the view that they have nothing in common apart from being right/wrong. That's a normative theory, at least on my usage. By contrast a 'metaethical' theory would be a theory about what the rightness itself is.Bartricks

    Well, in your moral particularism, there’s something else that you think all wrong actions have in common: they are all “intuitively considered wrong by the rational intuitions of at least one person”. Is that not something that all wrong actions share? If that’s the case, then I don’t understand how my theory is more pattern based than your theory.

    So, I think your axiological hedonism is false on its face - it flies in the face of powerful and widely shared moral intuitions that we have no reason to discount.Bartricks

    Well, your phrase here that hedonism “flies in the face of “powerful” and widely shared moral intuitions that we have “no reason to discount”” seems to demonstrate why I think your approach to moral philosophy is extremely prejudice against unpopular opinions like the one I happen to uphold. It’s almost like I have to fight an uphill battle for you to even consider my arguments. First of all, how could a group of people who have never even heard of my degree of confidence argument or my comeasurability requirement argument have “powerful” objections to arguments they never even heard. It’s possible that if I could convince the entire world to sit down and study all of my arguments for an hour a day for a year and also give them a pill that makes them smart enough to understand my arguments perfectly then a lot of people might agree with me. Alas, I cannot do that and I don’t really want to. My point here is that most people are simply not even familiar with the best arguments in support of hedonism just as many hedonists might not be aware of the best arguments against hedonism. I have studied the topic of Axiology extensively by reading lots of academic journals on the topic and related topics. I have also spent about 2-3 hours a day in the last 4 years philosophizing about this topic and other philosophical topics. I’m not even claiming to be right about my views on Hedonism though. There are plenty of really good Axiologists who are more dedicated than I am who might have really good objections to my arguments. But, I find it laughable that my arguments could defeated by normal people who never even heard of my arguments or philosophized about the topics that I have philosophized about. It’s kinda like saying that the Multi-Verse theory in physics is false because it’s so counter-intuitive to most people. The Multi-Verse theory might be false and many physicists object to it but you can’t use the intuitions of non-physicists to say that it’s wrong. So, why could we use the intuitions of non-philosophers to say that the premises of your arguments against hedonism are true? They might actually be true but I would want to hear a complicated defense for the truthfulness of those premises by a seasoned philosopher who can provide it.


    This post has gotten pretty long so I will address the rest of your post in another post later on.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223
    So, there is no more a pattern to morality than there is to, say, colour. Some things are blue. Is there anything all blue things have in common apart from being blue? Nope.Bartricks

    I think there are other things that all blue things have in common:
    1. All blue things are made of atoms
    2. All blue things exist in the same universe(if there are no other universes with blue things.)
    3. All blue things could be perceived by humans who are not color blind as being blue.
    4. All blue things reflect light in a similar manner and this is why they are all blue.
    5. All blue things are not mental states
    6. All blue things are not mathematical equations
    7. All blue things are not red things

    If we consider “are not” similarities then there is a near infinite amount of things that all blue things have in common. The same could be applied to wrong actions:

    1. All wrong actions are not right actions.
    2. All wrong actions are fictional concepts because actions are better understood as being on a spectrum of betterness and worseness.(I know you probably don’t agree with that one.)
    3. If wrong actions were not fictional concepts, then all wrong actions would not be a type of object.
    4. All wrong actions are not mental states.
    5. All wrong actions are actions.
    6. All wrong actions are concepts.

    I think you get the idea here. My point is that wrong actions have a near infinite amount of things in common and so it’s not clear to me why you think that morality is not pattern based or that color is not pattern based.

    Like I say, I think that's wholly unjustified and just bizarre. The core assumption is unjustified. Why assume that all right acts will have something in common apart from being right? They may do - by why assume it as an article of faith at the outset?Bartricks

    Well, I think I have already answered your questions here above. I don’t think that right acts even exist but if we were talk to about good acts instead and define them as being better than the alternative acts then there’s a near infinite amount of similarities that all good acts have in common.

    And given that any pattern one thinks there may be is going to be justified - to the extent that it is justified - by its being implied by some of our intuitions, it is bizarre to then subsequently ignore the probative force of those that do not imply it.Bartricks

    As I have stated earlier, I believe that intuitions that occur within a deeper level of argumentation are better than intuitions that occur at more shallow levels. In addition, I’m perfectly willing to change my mind if someone provides a good counter-argument to one of my axiological arguments. A good counter-argument does not simply state that my argument is assuming something to be true since all philosophical arguments have underlying assumptions. A good counter-argument puts the person who holds the argument in a pretty difficult explanatory trap where it becomes very difficult to explain something if someone continues to uphold their argument. I don’t feel like my argument for the comeasurability requirement or my degree of confidence argument has been put into any sort of explanatory trap. Rather, because I just realized that there is obviously an infinite number of things that good actions have in common, this only strengthens my intuition that we can expect to find more things that good actions all have in common. And, it reveals that you haven’t even accurately diagnosed what the assumptions of my arguments are(which is understandable since you haven’t heard some of my arguments yet and I’m sure there are plenty of assumptions that I’m making that you will eventually point out since all philosophical arguments have assumptions.). I don’t deny that I have to rely on intuition at some point but I think that having a longer chain of good arguments can make your intuitions more reliable. I also consider well developed arguments of other people but I end up objecting to them or else I end up seeing them as plausible.

    When we look at the evidence - and look at it 'assumption-free' so to speak - then morality appears to be roughly patterned, but not rigidly so. It doesn't 'have' to have a pattern, but it seems to have a pattern of sorts.Bartricks

    Is there such a thing as “assumption-free evidence”? Even the most reliable evidence has some assumptions that it relies on. For example, people who say that the theory of evolution has more evidence than the theory of intelligent design assume that the intuitions of scientists to measure the amount of evidence for both theories is reliable. In addition, the evidence that we have that the Earth is the 3rd planet from the Sun assumes that the government is not hiding the existence of a planet between Mercury and Venus. It also assumes that Mercury actually exists and is not merely a hoax perpetrated by the scientific community. So, there’s always some assumption that you can claim that a piece of evidence is making and so there simply isn’t such a thing as “assumption-free evidence”.

    For example, imagine a divine command theory is true (which it is). That is, imagine that moral rightness and wrongness are prescriptions of a god, prescriptions that our rational intuitions give us some insight into.

    Now imagine that the god is benevolent (which she is). Well, it seems reasonable to suppose that a benevolent god would issue prescriptions that would benefit us: that is, that she'd want us to do thrive and form meaningful relationships and all that stuff. If we follow prescriptions of that sort, then we're also likely to be more reproductively successful than those who did not.

    In this case, then, we have a divine explanation for why it might be that living in accordance with many moral prescriptions has, in the main, proved to be adaptive. And in this case the explanation does not debunk the intuitions at all.
    Bartricks

    Ok, now I think you just both defeated your arguments for moral particularism and your arguments for antinatalism. Divine Command theory is a normative ethical theory which argues that right and wrong actions are the prescriptions of God. Which means that in addition to the infinite amount of things that all right acts have in common, they all share another crucial thing in common: they are all prescriptions of God. I suppose you would then argue that moral particularism is simply a method of figuring out what God’s prescriptions are. In that case, why couldn’t my degree of certainty argument and my incomeasurability requirement argument be a better method of figuring out God’s prescriptions? Another question I have now is if there is a benevolent God then why would procreation be immoral? Did this God not create mankind with good intentions or is something or someone else responsible for the existence of mankind? Was God not able to prevent the birth of mankind by not creating the universe(or did he even create it?)? Finally, it seems that this may imply that the survival advantage of thinking that procreation is permissible is not the only explanation for why people hold the intuition that procreation is permissible. It’s also possible that this was an intuition that was implanted by God herself and she thought that procreation was a good thing. Thus, this seems to make the intuitions people hold about procreation about as reliable as the intuitions that people hold about the torture of Tom. In fact, I bet you that more people would be willing to support the torture of Tom worldwide than the people who are willing to oppose procreation. There’s not a single country in the world where antinatalism is a popular movement. It seems that people in some countries like China, North Korea, and Colombia are willing to support the torture of one person to make everyone extremely happy. Hell, in Colombia, you have cartels torturing people all the time to make a profit and to simply send a message to their rivals. People living there are probably so desensitized to torture that they can think more rationally about this issue and not let emotive issues get in the way.
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    I think there are other things that all blue things have in common:
    1. All blue things are made of atoms
    2. All blue things exist in the same universe(if there are no other universes with blue things.)
    3. All blue things could be perceived by humans who are not color blind as being blue.
    4. All blue things reflect light in a similar manner and this is why they are all blue.
    5. All blue things are not mental states
    6. All blue things are not mathematical equations
    7. All blue things are not red things
    TheHedoMinimalist

    This misses the point. For nothing is blue rather than another colour due to these things, and thus you cannot get any principle from them.

    I mean, one could point out - trivially - that one thing all right acts have in common apart from being right is that they're all actions, and they all happen in time, and so on. But you can't get a normative theory from that. They're just conceptual truths.

    So, of course I agree that all right actions are actions, and all right actions are performed by agents, and so on. But the rightness is not 'supervenient' or resultant from these features, and thus such observations cannot provide a basis for a substantial normative theory.

    What you need is to find something that all right acts have in common and from which their rightness can be said to derive. Then and only then will you be able to formulate a normative principle.

    The moral particularist denies that there are any such features. The moral particularist does not deny that right actions are all actions, or that they are all identical with themselves, or that they are all performed by agents, rather they deny that their rightness derives from something they all have in common apart from their rightness.

    Is there such a thing as “assumption-free evidence”?TheHedoMinimalist

    Yes, lots. It appears that hurting another for fun is wrong. That is, my reason represents me to have reason not to hurt others for fun. This is not an assumption, but an appearance. And appearances are prima facie evidence in support of their representative contents. That too is a rational appearance.

    These are appearances, not assumptions. To illustrate the difference, take one of those well-known optical illusions concerning shapes - you know, the sort where there are two objects that appear to be different sizes but are in fact the same size. Now, because these are familiar to most of us, we 'assume' the two objects are the same size. Yet they 'appear' to be different sizes. I mean, mere familiarity with these illusions does not prevent the objects featuring in them from appearing to be different sizes. Likewise, hurting others for fun appears to be wrong. That's not an assumption. It is how things appear (and appear to virtually everyone). Not everyone believes in the accuracy of such appearances (nihilists do not, for instance). But even those who do not believe in their accuracy - so, nihilists again - still typically get the impression the acts are wrong (they just don't assume they actually are).

    So, there’s always some assumption that you can claim that a piece of evidence is making and so there simply isn’t such a thing as “assumption-free evidence”.TheHedoMinimalist

    No, that's just plain false and amounts to a form of the most extreme scepticism.

    As I have stated earlier, I believe that intuitions that occur within a deeper level of argumentation are better than intuitions that occur at more shallow levels.TheHedoMinimalist

    I do not know what you mean by 'deeper' and 'shallower' in this context.

    Ok, now I think you just both defeated your arguments for moral particularism and your arguments for antinatalism. Divine Command theory is a normative ethical theory which argues that right and wrong actions are the prescriptions of God.TheHedoMinimalist

    No I haven't and no it isn't. Divine command theory is a metaethical theory, not a normative ethical theory.

    And it is not the theory that morality is the commands of 'God'. That's one particular kind of divine command theory - the kind associated with Christianity and Islam. But divine command theory is the theory that morality is the commands of 'a god or gods'. It isn't a religious view, but a metaethical view - a philosophical theory.

    It may help if I point out that I am not religious and neither know nor care what Christianity or any other religious says about anything.

    Note too, that a normative theory is a theory about what's right, not about what rightness itself is. A metaethical theory is a theory about what rightness itself is.

    As an example, utilitarianism is a normative theory. It says "The right act is the one that maximises happiness". Divine command theory does not contradict this, and is thus not a rival view. For it says that 'a right act is one and the same as a prescription of a god". That says nothing about the content of the prescription. So, it is consistent with utilitarianism (and deontology, and any other normative theory you care to mention).

    Having said this, Divine command theory does, I believe, imply moral particularism at the normative level, but that does not make it a normative theory (a theory that has normative implications is not thereby a normative theory; for example, nihilism is a metaethical theory with normative implications - it implies nothing is right or wrong - but that doesn't make it a normative theory).

    I suppose you would then argue that moral particularism is simply a method of figuring out what God’s prescriptions are. In that case, why couldn’t my degree of certainty argument and my incomeasurability requirement argument be a better method of figuring out God’s prescriptions?TheHedoMinimalist

    No, because it is implausible. Your normative view is entirely compatible with divine command theory, but it nevertheless has no good evidence in its support, I think. If you drop your assumptions and just inspect people's rational intuitions they vary from case to case, yes? There's a rough shape to them, true. But nothing very fixed and definite. So, moral particularism is implied by the actual evidence - by rational intuitions.

    Note too how moral particularism - as well as being independently supported by the direct evidence of our rational intuiitons - is also implied by divine command theory. If divine command theory is true, then what's right is determined by a god's commands, yes? Well, are they fixed? No, or at least, there's no good reason to think they would be. I mean, if I command you to do something in one context, I am not thereby committed to commanding you to do it in another, or even in the same context on another occasion. So, what goes for me surely will go for a god as well.

    So, if divine command theory is true - and it demonstrably is - then we would expect moral particularism to be true. And moral particularism does appear to be true. All roads lead to moral particularism.

    Another question I have now is if there is a benevolent God then why would procreation be immoral?TheHedoMinimalist

    It's 'a god' rather than 'God'. If you say "God" you associate my views with religious ones that I neither know or care about. Understanding my view requires taking seriously that I am not religious and that I am not talking about 'God'.

    Bearing that in mind, why would a benevolent god be opposed to us procreating?

    Well, would a benevolent god have created a world like this one and then forced innocent creatures to live in it? No, of course not. Why? Because that would be a shitty thing to do.

    There are loads of people who recognise this - who recognise that no good god would have done such a thing. Yet they then do it themselves!! They know how dangerous the world is, they know no benevolent god would have suffered innocents to live in it, yet they then suffer innocents to live in it.

    A benevolent person does not bring an innocent person into a world like this one. If you find yourself locked in a prison, it is not okay to force some innocent people into it to keep you company. That's not what a benevolent person does. They do their best to get along with those who are already suffering the same fate as themselves, rather than selfishly summoning others in to join them.

    Would a benevolent spectator be in favour of this prisoner forcing innocent others to join them in prison? No, of course not.

    So, one major reason why a benevolent person would not be in favour of us procreating is that benevolent people are not in favour of subjecting innocent people to life in a dangerous world. They would be in favour of us being kind to each other, to promoting each other's happiness, and so on. But they would not be in favour - or it seems highly unlikely that they would be anyway - of us making innocent others join us.

    Also, it is quite clear from our rational intuitions that the god who exists seems, in the main, to be opposed to imposing things on people without their prior consent. I mean, doing that - even when what one imposes is beneficial - seems wrong in many circumstances, and even in those where it is overall justified, it seems regrettable nevertheless. I find it hard to think of a much more significant thing to impose on someone than a life here. So, given she seems so opposed to imposing significant things on others without their consent, it is reasonable to suppose she'd be very much opposed to procreation on those grounds too.
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    The deeper reason he gives for believing this is because he thinks that God would disapprove of it.TheHedoMinimalist

    I have replied to your replies in the wrong order, as I read the last one without realizing there was one before it.

    Anyway, I still do not know what you mean by 'deeper' and in your example you seem to be attacking a straw man.

    I am not a moral particularist solely because I am a divine command theorist. I think moral particularism is implied by the evidence of our rational intuitions.

    There's more than one way to skin a cat and one of my arguments for moral particularism is that it appears to be true. That is, any feature that makes one act right, can be found to make another act wrong. Note, that argument does not appeal to the putative truth of divine command theory, it just appeals to rational appearances.

    Anyway, I reiterate that I do not know what you mean by 'deeper' and 'shallower' intuitions in this context. I assume that you probably mean by 'deeper' those intuitions that, if taken in isolation, would imply the truth of a principle and by 'shallower' you mean intuitions about particular cases. But I simply see no reason to accord one more probative force than another.

    Note too that the philosophical community seems to be largely on my side, for if someone proposes some moral principle what happens is everyone then tries to imagine a case in which the principle would force us to judge an act wrong that is intuitively obviously right. When such a case is imagined, it is taken to be a counterexample to the principle, and depending on how clear and widely shared the intuitions are, the counterexample will often be held to refute the rule. So, what you would call 'shallow' intuitions that are, in fact, the ultimate test of credibility that any moral rule is held up to.

    Axiological hedonism is easily refuted - there are abundant refutations of it. For instance, here's one:

    1. If Axiological hedonism is true, then it is as wrong for me to cause myself harm as it is to cause someone else an equal amount of harm
    2. It is not as wrong for me to cause myself harm as it is to case someone else an equal amount of harm. (For instance, if I hit myself in the face that's not as wrong as hitting someone else in the face, even if the amounts of pain the act causes - both physical and emotional - happen to be identical)
    3. Therefore axiological hedonism is false. — Bartricks
    I would argue that both premise 1 and 2 of your argument are false.
    TheHedoMinimalist

    You haven't provided any evidence that either are false. You have talked about degrees of betterness. But read premise 1 again. It says it is 'as' wrong for me to cause myself a harm as it is to cause someone else an equal amount of harm. So, act X causes person A 10 dolors of harm, and act Y causes person B 10 dolors of harm. As an axiological hedonist how can you possibly insist that one act is more wrong than the other? You're committed to saying they're equally bad, other things being equal. Now, how can it possibly make a difference who the agent of the act is? It can't.

    You can bring in other factors, but the whole point of the example is to equalize those. You're not equalizing them - you're changing the example. You need to hold other things equal.

    So, Tim knows that if he hits himself it will cause 10 dolors of harm. And Tim knows that if he hits Jane, it will case 10 dolors of harm. Don't insist that Tim's act of hitting Jane will actually cause more dolors of harm - that is to change the example. No, in the example both acts cause exactly the same amount of harm. That's why, as a hedonist, you're committed to having to judge them both equally wrong. Yet they're obviously not. Hence the theory is refuted.

    So the first premise cannot be denied. And as for the second, it seems to me that you provide no evidence against it, you just raise the spectre of scepticism.

    It is clear, is it not, to the rational intuitions of virtually everyone that hitting someone else is - other things being equal - much worse than hitting yourself? On what rational basis are you rejecting those intuitions? You can't just reject them because they are inconsistent with your theory - for that outs you as a dogmatist rather than a follower of evidence. And you can't selectively use scepticism to reject them, for that is once more arbitrary - you are only a sceptic when it comes to the probative force of intuitions that are inconsistent with your theory, but not otherwise.

    Well, your phrase here that hedonism “flies in the face of “powerful” and widely shared moral intuitions that we have “no reason to discount”” seems to demonstrate why I think your approach to moral philosophy is extremely prejudice against unpopular opinions like the one I happen to uphold. It’s almost like I have to fight an uphill battle for you to even consider my arguments.TheHedoMinimalist

    Your arguments are simply question begging. You are simply assuming that morality must have a fixed pattern and that you've discovered it.

    I have provided arguments against you.

    Again, you can't deny the probative force of rational intuitions without giving up on all arguments for anything, including your own view.

    So, rational intuitions have prima facie probative force.

    Now, as just about everyone will affirm, what makes one act right can make another wrong. Causing pain is sometimes a feature that makes an act wrong, sometimes a feature that makes an act right.

    And as just about everyone will also affirm, acts that seem to us today to be wrong, have seemed to others in the past to be right.

    So, if rational intuitions have prima facie probative force, and if what makes one act right can just as easily make another wrong, and if what has appeared right to most people in one age has appeared wrong to most people in another, then we have good prima facie evidence that moral particularism is true.

    Why? Because that 'just is' moral particularism. So, until or unless you challenge that argument, your view is refuted.

    There is also independent reason to reject your view: the refutations I gave, and plenty more besides. You simply denied the premises - but you need to provide actual evidence they're false, not just play the scepticism card and/or reject them due to their conflicting with your theory (that's to render your theory unfalsifiable).

    Also how can you possibly say that I am prejudiced against views that fly in the face of popular opinion?!? I am an antinatalist, for goodness sake!

    You are confusing moral particularism with moral conservatism. I am a moral particularist, but I am not by any stretch of the imagination a moral conservative, as a moments reflection on the view I am arguing for should reveal!!

    I have studied the topic of Axiology extensively by reading lots of academic journals on the topic and related topics. I have also spent about 2-3 hours a day in the last 4 years philosophizing about this topic and other philosophical topics. I’m not even claiming to be right about my views on Hedonism though. There are plenty of really good Axiologists who are more dedicated than I am who might have really good objections to my arguments. But, I find it laughable that my arguments could defeated by normal people who never even heard of my arguments or philosophized about the topics that I have philosophized about.TheHedoMinimalist

    Clever people defend false views all the time. There are umpteen normative theories and umpteen metaethical theories under debate in the literature - they can't all be true. They can all be false, but at best only one normative theory can be true, and only one metaethical theory. So, as things stand, we know already that most clever people's theories about these matters are false.

    Now back to my refutations of axiological hedonism - I think it is undeniable that their first premises are true, for they are conceptual truths. And it is undeniable that their second premises are supported by most people's rational intuitions. So, the view is refuted unless, that is, you can provide 'independent' reason to doubt those rational intuitions. Not mere possibilities, note. Just pointing out that it is 'possible' the intuitions are mistaken is lame. It is possible Lee Harvey Oswald didn't assassinate Kennedy, possible that all the 'evidence' implicating him was cooked-up, and so on. But that mere possibility is not good evidence that he didn't do it. Likewise, the mere possibility that the intuitions in support of the second premises are false is not good evidence that they are false.

    So I think axiological hedonism has been refuted - refuted by the arguments I gave and refuted as well by the fact that any wrong-making feature can become a right-making feature in another context, or another time.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223
    I mean, one could point out - trivially - that one thing all right acts have in common apart from being right is that they're all actions, and they all happen in time, and so on. But you can't get a normative theory from that. They're just conceptual truths.Bartricks

    Ok, but you seem to think that there is at least one similarity that all right and wrong acts have that suggests that your moral particularism is just as much of a normative theory as my mildly egoistic hedonic consequentialist theory— Namely that the rightness and wrongness of an action is determined by the most commonly held intuitions about that action which cannot be explained away as a bias. This seems to be a moral rule that your moral particularism is based off of. It may be a complicated rule but it’s still a moral rule. It’s actually less complicated than the supposed moral rule that my theory follows. I would challenge you to summarize the moral rule that my theory follows in a single sentence like I just summarized the moral rule that your theory follows. My theory says that a decision option(which includes both actions and choosing not to act) is good if it is better than the alternative decision options and what determines if it’s better is a series of competing aims. The most important aim is to minimize suffering in one’s own life. The second most important aim is to maximize pleasure in one’s own life. The third most important aims are to maximize one’s own life satisfaction and to minimize the suffering of the world. The fourth most important aims is to maximize the pleasure of the world and satisfy as many of one’s desires as possible. There are other less important normative aims beyond this but they are not important to mention since it’s extremely unlikely that you would find yourself in a situation where you would need to privilege that minuscule aim above the other more important aims. In the case of Tom, there is actually a conflict between the more important aim of minimizing the suffering of the world and the less important aim of maximizing the pleasure of the world. I think that the less important aim supersedes over the more important aim here due to the magnitude of the pleasure compared to the relatively small contribution that Tom’s torture adds on to the suffering of the world. But, my theory welcomes you to disagree with me. You could accept my theory to be true and still argue that the aim of maximizing pleasure in the world could never supersede over the aim of minimizing suffering in the world. But, this would require you to defend a claim that suffering just has far more value significance than pleasure.

    So, of course I agree that all right actions are actions, and all right actions are performed by agents, and so on. But the rightness is not 'supervenient' or resultant from these features, and thus such observations cannot provide a basis for a substantial normative theory.Bartricks

    In my theory, the goodness of an action is also not supervenient on any specific feature. Any action can be good because it minimizing suffering in one’s own life but it can also be good because it maximizes pleasure in one’s own life but it can also be good because it minimizes the suffering of the world but it can also be good because it maximizes my life satisfaction but it can also be good because it maximizes the pleasure in the world. I think you misunderstood my theory as being less pluralistic and diverse than it actually is.

    Yes, lots. It appears that hurting another for fun is wrong. That is, my reason represents me to have reason not to hurt others for fun. This is not an assumption, but an appearance. And appearances are prima facie evidence in support of their representative contents. That too is a rational appearance.

    These are appearances, not assumptions. To illustrate the difference, take one of those well-known optical illusions concerning shapes - you know, the sort where there are two objects that appear to be different sizes but are in fact the same size. Now, because these are familiar to most of us, we 'assume' the two objects are the same size. Yet they 'appear' to be different sizes. I mean, mere familiarity with these illusions does not prevent the objects featuring in them from appearing to be different sizes. Likewise, hurting others for fun appears to be wrong. That's not an assumption. It is how things appear (and appear to virtually everyone). Not everyone believes in the accuracy of such appearances (nihilists do not, for instance). But even those who do not believe in their accuracy - so, nihilists again - still typically get the impression the acts are wrong (they just don't assume they actually are).
    Bartricks

    In that case, why would it not be sufficient for me to simply say that it appears to me that my theories are correct and thus this is assumption-free evidence for me that they are correct? It’s seems that everyone could simply believe what appears true to them. Why should they take the intuitions of other people into account as well? Also, why not also consider the perspective of the nihilist here? Aren’t you making the assumption that the nihilist is wrong?

    No, that's just plain false and amounts to a form of the most extreme scepticism.Bartricks

    Why do you think that extreme skepticism is false? Are you not simply assuming that extreme skepticism is false?

    No I haven't and no it isn't. Divine command theory is a metaethical theory, not a normative ethical theory.

    And it is not the theory that morality is the commands of 'God'. That's one particular kind of divine command theory - the kind associated with Christianity and Islam. But divine command theory is the theory that morality is the commands of 'a god or gods'. It isn't a religious view, but a metaethical view - a philosophical theory.

    It may help if I point out that I am not religious and neither know nor care what Christianity or any other religious says about anything.

    Note too, that a normative theory is a theory about what's right, not about what rightness itself is. A metaethical theory is a theory about what rightness itself is.
    Bartricks

    I don’t see how your divine command theory is not a normative theory but religious divine command theories are. I would like to point out that even your non-religious divine command theory seems to claim that what is right is whatever God or the gods command. How is that different than saying that what is right is what Allah commands? Is it just because your divine command theory doesn’t specify exactly what is right while religious divine command theories do? In that case, my theory also doesn’t specify what is right since there are multiple competing goals in my theory and different people may have different intuitions about what answer my theory implies for cases like the case of Tom. In addition, religious divine command theory also doesn’t specify what is right since different religious people may interpret their holy books differently.

    As an example, utilitarianism is a normative theory. It says "The right act is the one that maximises happiness". Divine command theory does not contradict this, and is thus not a rival view. For it says that 'a right act is one and the same as a prescription of a god". That says nothing about the content of the prescription. So, it is consistent with utilitarianism (and deontology, and any other normative theory you care to mention).Bartricks

    Well, it’s possible for you to believe in multiple normative theories at once if you somehow glue them together and try to make them perfectly compatible with one another. For example, there is actually a normative ethical theory called “Christian Hedonism”. This theory claims that the Bible teaches us that God wants us to maximize the pleasure in our own life and so that’s what we should do. So, it combines Christian divine command theory with hedonistic ethical egoism. Another good example is Rule Utilitarianism which argues that we should follow moral rules which maximize the happiness of the world instead of performing actions which maximize the happiness of the world. So, a rule utilitarian might argue that we shouldn’t torture Tom because following the rule that we should torture people to maximize pleasure usually leads to a bad consequence so we should stay on the safe side and not violate that moral rule. So, it basically combines Utilitarianism with Deontology. Another example is Trait Utilitarianism which argues that we focus on developing personality traits which maximizes happiness of the world. It basically combines Utilitarianism with Virtue Ethics. So, it’s entirely possible that your normative ethical theory should really be called “Divine Moral Particularism” because it argues that are intuitions about moral cases are often reliable because they were bestowed to us by the divine.

    nihilism is a metaethical theory with normative implications - it implies nothing is right or wrong - but that doesn't make it a normative theoryBartricks

    Actually, I don’t think that Nihilism has normative implications. This is because Moral Error Theory(which is what I’m assuming that you are referring to when you speak of “nihilism” as a meta-ethical theory) argues that all moral claims should be interpreted as claims of objective truth and that this implies that all moral claims are false since moral claims are not objectively true. Many Moral Error Theorists or “Moral Nihilists” as you call them argue that we should just treat morality of as a kind of fantasy game. So, you could have a nihilist pretend as though Utilitarianism is true for fun because he likes the concept of being a utilitarian. He would do all the things that the typical Utilitarian would do but he would simply see it as a game and argue that the “Moral Realist” Utilitarian is taking himself too seriously. So, there doesn’t have to be any normative implications to nihilism. The moral implications of this view is anything that the nihilist wants it to be.

    No, because it is implausible. Your normative view is entirely compatible with divine command theory, but it nevertheless has no good evidence in its support, I think. If you drop your assumptions and just inspect people's rational intuitions they vary from case to case, yes? There's a rough shape to them, true. But nothing very fixed and definite. So, moral particularism is implied by the actual evidence - by rational intuitions.Bartricks

    Once again, you are assuming that there are no different levels of deepness of intuitions. I know you are not understanding my argument that some intuitions are deeper than others on the basis of how long of a chain of arguments one has before they rely on intuition but I already tried explaining my argument to you as simply as I possibly can. I’m also not sure what you mean by “fixed” here. My theory is not fixed onto any singular normative aim so in what way does my theory imply that morality is fixed?

    If divine command theory is true, then what's right is determined by a god's commands, yes? Well, are they fixed? No, or at least, there's no good reason to think they would be.Bartricks

    Why do you assume that god’s commands are not fixed?
    Also, why do you assume that my moral theory implies that morality is fixed when it doesn’t follow a singular aim?

    I mean, if I command you to do something in one context, I am not thereby committed to commanding you to do it in another, or even in the same context on another occasion. So, what goes for me surely will go for a god as well.Bartricks

    You are not committed to command me to do something in another context but you could command me to something in every context imaginable. god could also do the same. Thus, it is entirely possible that your god or gods would command you to do things that are compatible with the hierarchy of aims that is present in my theory.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223
    Also, it is quite clear from our rational intuitions that the god who exists seems, in the main, to be opposed to imposing things on people without their prior consent. I mean, doing that - even when what one imposes is beneficial - seems wrong in many circumstances, and even in those where it is overall justified, it seems regrettable nevertheless. I find it hard to think of a much more significant thing to impose on someone than a life here. So, given she seems so opposed to imposing significant things on others without their consent, it is reasonable to suppose she'd be very much opposed to procreation on those grounds too.Bartricks

    So, I have 2 questions:
    1. How do you know that god or gods are benevolent?
    2. Did god or gods create the universe which allowed for sentient life?

    Anyway, I reiterate that I do not know what you mean by 'deeper' and 'shallower' intuitions in this context. I assume that you probably mean by 'deeper' those intuitions that, if taken in isolation, would imply the truth of a principle and by 'shallower' you mean intuitions about particular cases. But I simply see no reason to accord one more probative force than another.Bartricks

    Yes, you understand right here but why do you not think that we should privilege intuitions that imply the truth of a deeper principle? Why assume that intuitions have no levels and could only be dismissed if they are deemed to be as a result of some bias? In addition, why assume that the intuitions of a greater number of people are more likely to be correct than intuitions of a lesser number of people? Could we not posit a possibility that some intuitions are of a higher quality than others even if there’s no explanation for why one of the intuitions should be dismissed? I have an epistemological intuition that deeper intuitions are more reliable than more shallow intuitions. Why should I distrust this intuition?

    Note too that the philosophical community seems to be largely on my side, for if someone proposes some moral principle what happens is everyone then tries to imagine a case in which the principle would force us to judge an act wrong that is intuitively obviously right. When such a case is imagined, it is taken to be a counterexample to the principle, and depending on how clear and widely shared the intuitions are, the counterexample will often be held to refute the rule. So, what you would call 'shallow' intuitions that are, in fact, the ultimate test of credibility that any moral rule is held up to.Bartricks

    What do you mean by “philosophical community” here? Do you mean the community of academic philosophers in universities or the community of online philosophers that we have in this forum? If you are talking about the former, then there’s plenty of good explanations as to why most academic philosophers agree with you more than with me:
    1. Academic philosophers often have to protect their reputation with the public to avoid getting fired and to get hired and get promotions. This means they have to “play it safe” and avoid talking about their more controversial opinions. It’s rare to see academic philosophers defend viewpoints in academic papers that are extremely controversial. This is not because most academic philosophers hold 0 extremely controversial viewpoints. I think most people believe in at least one thing that is extremely unpopular. For you, it happens to be antinatalism for example. But, let me ask you a question. Imagine that you just graduated with a PhD in philosophy and you are looking to get a job as a philosophy professor, would you write an academic paper defending your antinatalism and would you put that paper on your resume for your potential future employers to see? If you would then that’s a good way to have your resume end up in the trash. If I was looking to get a job as a philosophy professor, then I would definitely just avoid writing any papers about any topics that might offend anyone. I would probably just specialize in a less controversial field like Metaphysics and Epistemology. So, the reason why academic moral philosophers often use shallow intuitions as arguments against normative ethical theories is because they know that no one can bite the bullet on their thought experiments without risking their career. Really popular philosophers could potentially get away with expressing controversial viewpoints. For example, Peter Singer is a utilitarian philosopher and he would agree with me that the torture of Tom is justified and he’s still a philosophy professor at an acclaimed university. He’s also one of the best selling and most loved philosophers in the world despite also being one of the most hated philosophers. So, you can be loved and hated as a philosopher at the same time. There are non-philosophers who do not even attend his university who have protested outside of his university to try to get him fired from his job. Despite this, his university realizes that many more people would want to go to this university to be taught by their favorite philosopher Peter Singer than those who would boycott the university just because they don’t fire him. But, Peter Singer did not express his most controversial viewpoints until he became popular for his less controversial viewpoints. This is probably because he would of gotten fired if it wasn’t for his prior popularity. The same sort of story could be told about David Benetar who is the most famous antinatalist philosopher. He is one of only 2 academic philosophers that I know of who are brave enough to argue for antinatalism directly. The other philosopher is Christoph Fehige. There is a third philosopher named Seana Shiffrin who wrote a paper that argued children should be allowed to sue their parents for creating them but I’m not sure if she counts as an antinatalist philosopher. Anyways, Benetar didn’t write about his antinatalist views until he moved up the ranks in his university and became the head of the philosophy department of his university. If he did so early in his career, he might of gotten fired. I think my views are even more controversial than that of Benetar and Singer, so I would not get hired for sure. So, it‘s difficult to get a diversity of opinions in a university setting if it impacts your job security.
    2. My arguments have been heard and critiqued by very few philosophers. In fact, you are pretty much the only philosopher that has talked to me for long enough for me to get to use these arguments. My most popular YouTube video called “Why I would plug myself in an Experience Machine” only has 16 views. My other videos average at just 1 view. Unless every argument that any moral philosopher has created gets heard and critiqued by every moral philosopher, we cannot accurately gauge the intuitiveness of various viewpoints under ideal circumstances.
    3. Most academic philosophers know little about the field of Axiology and this means only a handful of philosophers could adequately critique my arguments without first doing a fair bit of research.
    So, why do people on this philosophy forum usually agree with you more than me? Well....
    1. I’m actually not sure if they actually do agree with you more here. I think TPF has a decent amount of people who willing to entertain my viewpoints. Like 3 people out of maybe 8 people appeared to agree with me that Bob’s procreation is justified. I’m not sure how many people would agree with me about the case of Tom but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a sizable minority. It’s also worth noting that there’s also a lot more antinatalists on TPF than in any philosophical department of a university. This is probably because anonymity provides a safe space to talk about controversial viewpoints.
    2. Philosophers on TPF often read academic books and journals and mimic the argumentation style of academic philosophers. Because acclaimed philosophy professors like to use thought experiments which appeal to shallow intuitions to argue against normative ethical viewpoints, the use of such arguments seems more credible to people. But, as I have stated, this is due to the fact that most academic philosophers are scared of biting bullets.
    3. Most people on TPF are not on the same level of philosophical sophistication as an academic philosopher typically is. Obviously, there are exceptions but on average they are closer to a non-philosopher that you might meet on the street than an academic philosopher who has highly sophisticated ideas. So, they are not the authority figure that we are looking for.

    So, in conclusion, there really are no authority figures that could give us right and wrong answers to moral questions without significant biases or inadequacies. This is why I think it’s better to trust your own reasons and intuitions and not worry about what other people are saying.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223
    You haven't provided any evidence that either are false. You have talked about degrees of betterness. But read premise 1 again. It says it is 'as' wrong for me to cause myself a harm as it is to cause someone else an equal amount of harm. So, act X causes person A 10 dolors of harm, and act Y causes person B 10 dolors of harm. As an axiological hedonist how can you possibly insist that one act is more wrong than the other? You're committed to saying they're equally bad, other things being equal. Now, how can it possibly make a difference who the agent of the act is? It can't.Bartricks
    I don’t think that the 2 actions are equally bad. I actually think that it’s worse to harm yourself than it is to harm others. This is because there is a higher probability that someone has some reason to avoid causing themselves to suffer than the probability that someone has some reason to avoid causing others to suffer. This explains why there are some philosophers who are ethical egoists and moral nihilists and think they have no reason to avoid causing others to suffer but there are literally no philosophers that I have seen who think we have absolutely no reason to avoid causing ourselves to suffer pointlessly. This implies that we have a higher degree of confidence that self-harm is bad than the confidence by which we can say that harming others is bad. To give you a thought experiment, imagine that you and a complete stranger get kidnapped by a sadistic torturer. He says that he will either torture you or torture the stranger and you are the one who has to choose who gets tortured. Assuming that the suffering from the torture will be the same for you and the stranger, it’s seems like you would have more reason to have the stranger tortured instead of having yourself get tortured. Of course, you would probably have a different opinion if I gave you a thought experiment where you have to torture someone yourself in order to alleviate your own suffering. But, why would a different opinion be warranted on the latter of those 2 thought experiments?

    So, Tim knows that if he hits himself it will cause 10 dolors of harm. And Tim knows that if he hits Jane, it will case 10 dolors of harm. Don't insist that Tim's act of hitting Jane will actually cause more dolors of harm - that is to change the example. No, in the example both acts cause exactly the same amount of harm. That's why, as a hedonist, you're committed to having to judge them both equally wrong. Yet they're obviously not. Hence the theory is refutedBartricks

    No, you misunderstood me here. I’m claiming that Tim has more reason not hit himself. This is because the action of him hitting himself is more likely to be instrumentally bad than the action of him hitting Jane(if we don’t consider that he might go to jail for hitting Jane and suffer more there.)

    So the first premise cannot be denied. And as for the second, it seems to me that you provide no evidence against it, you just raise the spectre of scepticism.Bartricks

    Why can’t the first premise be denied? You haven’t provided a single argument to defend the premise. You also haven’t provide any argument that the second premise is true. I have provided an argument against your second premise by insisting that there is intuitively a greater probability that you have reason to cause yourself suffering than the probability that you have reason to avoid causing suffering of others. I used the existence of ethical egoists and nihilists as evidence that some philosophers do not think they have non-selfish reason to avoid harming others. I also argued that there are practically no philosophers who think they have no reason to avoid causing pointless suffering to themselves. Even the most skeptical and nihilistic people are willing to grant that they shouldn’t cause pointless suffering to themselves. Otherwise, they would be willing to put their hand on a hot stove to prove their point. This suggests that the likelihood that self-harm is bad is greater than the likelihood that harming others is bad.

    It is clear, is it not, to the rational intuitions of virtually everyone that hitting someone else is - other things being equal - much worse than hitting yourself?Bartricks

    It is not clear because those intuitions do not exist in an
    ideal environment of perfect knowledge. We do not know what a group of omniscient beings would think about my theories. It’s clear that the intuitions of those omniscient beings would be far more reliable than the shallow intuitions of the average person. So, why not assume that the deep intuitions of a really skilled Axiological philosopher would not be much more reliable than that of the average person as well?

    On what rational basis are you rejecting those intuitions? You can't just reject them because they are inconsistent with your theory - for that outs you as a dogmatist rather than a follower of evidence.Bartricks

    I’m not rejecting them because they are inconsistent with my theory. I’m rejecting them because you provided me with no reason to think these intuitions are rational. You simply assume that they are rational. I think some intuitions are better than others if they follow after a longer chain of arguments. It is an epistemological intuition that I hold and considering that most philosophers actually share this epistemological intuition of mine since most philosophers consider the intuitions of more philosophical people to be more reliable than the intuitions of non-philosophers, why would you reject this rational epistemological intuition that most philosophers hold?

    And you can't selectively use scepticism to reject them, for that is once more arbitrary - you are only a sceptic when it comes to the probative force of intuitions that are inconsistent with your theory, but not otherwise.Bartricks

    How am I using selective skepticism?

    Again, you can't deny the probative force of rational intuitions without giving up on all arguments for anything, including your own view.Bartricks

    Not if you argue that some intuitions are more reliable than others. Why are you consistently ignoring the epistemological intuitions shared by the majority of philosophers?

    So, if rational intuitions have prima facie probative force, and if what makes one act right can just as easily make another wrong, and if what has appeared right to most people in one age has appeared wrong to most people in another, then we have good prima facie evidence that moral particularism is true.Bartricks

    How do you know that there is such a thing as “prima facie” evidence? I would argue that all good evidence is difficult to discover and that we can’t trust the average person to do it right. In fact, we can’t even trust skilled philosophers to do it right. Skilled philosophers are also likely to get it wrong. I don’t think that any philosopher has ever proposed a theory that is completely correct about the subject matter that it discusses. In fact, I’m sure that my Mildly Egoistic Hedonic Consequentialism is wrong about a lot of things. It may even be completely wrong. But, I think that there is a greater likelihood that it is correct than any other value theory that I had encountered. But, it’s still probably wrong to some extent and maybe even completely wrong. Humans are just too dumb to know anything resembling the complete truth about good and bad actions. This is true for me as well since I’m only a pathetic human. I’m not a philosophical deity of any sort. But, I don’t think that should discourage me from trying to get it right to the best of my ability. If anything, it encourages me to constantly adjust my viewpoints as soon as I see flaws with it. But, instead of relying on the irrational intuitions of pathetic humans like myself, maybe I should try to see if there are better intuitions that are only available to the best of our species. If you think that humans suck at philosophy, then the commonality of their intuitions towards a particular moral case becomes irrelevant. The fact that most humans hold an intuition that the torture of Tom is unjustified might actually be evidence that it probably is justified since humans are so bad at moral philosophizing. Why are you so optimistic that humans can reason about these things correctly? It seems like this is just an assumption that you hold. Why not think that all philosophical ideas that have been devised are wrong to some extent but some are simply more wrong than others?

    Why? Because that 'just is' moral particularism. So, until or unless you challenge that argument, your view is refuted.Bartricks

    I have challenged your moral particularism above by expressing my pessimism in people’s ability to do philosophy well while arguing that this pessimism doesn’t suggest that we shouldn’t devise philosophical theories. This is because we should be proud to create a theory that was less wrong than any other theory or a theory that is less likely to be completely wrong than other theories. Hell, I’m even proud of you for supporting a divine command theory that is probably less likely to be completely wrong than the religious divine command theory :wink:

    Clever people defend false views all the time. There are umpteen normative theories and umpteen metaethical theories under debate in the literature - they can't all be true. They can all be false, but at best only one normative theory can be true, and only one metaethical theory. So, as things stand, we know already that most clever people's theories about these matters are false.Bartricks

    I agree. Every theory on normative ethics and meta-ethics is probably false. But, some of them are more false than others. I think that clever people usually hold more complicated and plausible variations of simple theories. For example, in the 18th Century there was only 2 types of Utilitarianism which was the Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarianism and John Stewart Mill’s Utilitarianism. Today, I don’t think a single high level moral philosopher thinks those specific versions of Utilitarianism are true. Rather, there is now like 100 different specific Utilitarian theories and theories that are almost Utilitarian and theories that are only somewhat Utilitarian like my own. But, the simple theories of Mill and Bentham are more popular among people with only a mild interest in philosophy. This is because they are not aware of all the modern variations of the Utilitarianism. I think most of the modern variations are better than the traditional variations. Some of the modern theories probably got closer to the truth than others but it’s impossible to know for sure which theories are less bad. But, high level philosophers seem to be in a better position to examine those theories for plausibility if not only because they are familiar with more versions of Utilitarianism and therefore can compare more different theories. The same thing applies across different categories of theories. I tend to think that if your theory doesn’t have a really long name like “Mildly Egoistic Hedonic Consequentialism” then there’s probably a lot of unanswered questions and flaws. Technically, I think my theory should actually be called “Mildly Egoistic and Mostly Hedonistic Consequentialism” since my theory is mostly but not completely hedonistic. My point being is that any theory with even a smallest amount of plausibility would be difficult to call anything with only 1 or 2 words. Philosophy is really complicated and so our theories should be really complicated as well. This is our best chance of not having a terrible theory.
  • TheMadFool
    4.7k
    1. Bob thinks that life is bad and procreation is prima facie immoral. Because of this, he avoids procreating and donates his spare money to Project Prevention. But, he has very wealthy parents and they want grandchildren. Those parents would only allow him to have their inheritance if he procreates. Bob knows that receiving the inheritance money would allow him to get far more drug addicts sterilized. So, he decides to have just 1 child to receive the inheritance money and he gives his only child a privileged lifestyle while still ensuring that he can donate very large sums of money to Project Prevention.

    2. Mary also thinks that life is bad and procreation is prima facie immoral. But, she really wants to have children. She reasons that as long as she donates enough money to Project Prevention that prevents more people from being born than the people that she creates, it is ok for her to have children.

    For the antinatalists in the forum, do you think that the actions of Bob are justified? What about the actions of Mary? For all the non-antinatalists, do you consider donating to Project Prevention as a good action, a neutral action, or a bad action?
    TheHedoMinimalist


    Bob's philosophy: antinatalism
    Bob's objective: contribute money to antinatalism
    Bob's method: have children to inherit money that he can then contribute towards antinatalism

    Mary's philosophy: antinatalism
    Mary's objective: to have children
    Mary's method: to contribute to antinatalism in order to offset her having children


    Bob seems to stay true to his philosophy and him having children can be considered as a requirement to have enough money to give to Project Prevention.

    Mary on the other hand wants out of antinatalism i.e. she's given up on it and if she contributes money to Project Prevention then she's doing it only out of guilt or to appease the god of antinatalism.

    In short, Bob is justified in his actions because he's still an antinatalist and proving it in practice, somewhat. Mary, on the other hand, is no longer an antinatalist and giving to Project Prevention doesn't and can't make her an antinatalist anymore.
  • Hanover
    5.1k
    There is a charity organization in the US called Project Prevention which pays drug addicts $300 to use long term contraception which often includes sterilization. The organization is usually supported by relatively conservative individuals who feel that voluntary eugenics is an effective and ethically acceptable means to improve our society. Sterilizing drug addicts can reduce absolute poverty and tax burdens in our societyTheHedoMinimalist

    Their seems more focused on delaying pregnancy until the addiction issues have been addressed:

    From their website:
    "Our mission is to continue to reach out to addicts offering referrals to drug treatment for those interested and to get them on birth control until they can care for the children they conceive. We are lowering the number of children added to foster care, preventing the addicts from the guilt and pain they feel each time they give birth only to have their child taken away, and preventing suffering of innocent children because even those fortunate enough to be born with no medical or emotional problems after placed in foster care face often a lifetime of longing to feel loved and wanted."
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223

    Well, by “birth control” they really mean long term contraception. Anything from non-permanent contraception like IUDs all the way to sterilization. They used to pay more money to drug addicts to get sterilized rather than use non-permanent long term methods but they have gotten backlash for it and now they simply pay a fraction of the money up front if a drug addict chooses non-permanent methods but they have to verify that they are still using the method each month to get more of the money. So, it’s still more inconvenient for them to choose the non-permanent route. They are a tax exempt charity so I think this might be the reason they are trying to keep a clean image that doesn’t offend people too much. Though, I’m not sure if it’s possible to lose your tax exempt status for being too controversial of a charity. I would recommend reading their Wikipedia page or reading through their entire website to get a better understanding of what they do and what criticisms they normally get from the public.
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    So, I have 2 questions:
    1. How do you know that god or gods are benevolent?
    2. Did god or gods create the universe which allowed for sentient life?
    TheHedoMinimalist

    In answer to 1, the god is Reason (moral imperatives and values are imperatives and values of Reason - it is just that Reason is a person), and I think we have grounds for believing she's benevolent because of the nature of her injunctions. For example, although our rational intuitions are not infallible, there are some whose accuracy we cannot reasonably doubt. Take the injunction to default believe in the accuracy of appearances. Any attempt to raise a doubt about that injunction of Reason would have to appeal to some other apparent injunctions of Reason, and so would be self-refuting. This rational intuition therefore cannot be debunked and so can safely be taken to be accurate.

    The can know, then, that to some extent, the god wants us all to do what is in our individual best interests. That, it seems to me, implies that she is benevolent. For 'being benevolent' essentially involves wanting others to do what is in their best interests, other things being equal. And that's what that rational intuition implies about the god.

    In answer to 2 - I am not sure, but it would seem not. For the god is benevolent (see above) and a benevolent being would not have created a world like this one and then forced innocent creatures to live in it. Most humans do that, of course - they're well aware of what the world is like, well aware that they themselves did not choose to live in it, yet think nothing of forcing innocent creatures to live in it, partly, no doubt, out of a desire to be admired and loved and worshipped - but I don't think a truly benevolent being would do that. Hence, I conclude that the god who exists, Reason, has not done so. But I am not sure, of course, it is just what seems to be implied by the evidence.

    Yes, you understand right here but why do you not think that we should privilege intuitions that imply the truth of a deeper principle? Why assume that intuitions have no levels and could only be dismissed if they are deemed to be as a result of some bias?TheHedoMinimalist

    Because that's the default. If you think some rational intuitions count for more, then you have the burden of proof. Note, I too think some rational intuitions count for more - namely, those that are not exposed to debunking explanations - but I explained why I think that. Those rational intuitions for which a wholly evolutionary explanation seems sufficient to explain why we get them are rational intuitions that lack probative force. This is because we can fully explain why we get them without having to appeal to the actual existence of their accuracy conditions.

    By contrast, you want to say - it would seem - that rational intuitions that lend themselves to systemisation by some kind of rule or principle carry more weight than those that do not. I simply see no good reason to think that's true. I can understand that we might want it to be true - it would be damn useful if it were true - but that isn't any kind of evidence that it is true (indeed, if anything it should make us even more wary of its truth, given our tendency to engage in wishful thinking).

    Re the philosophical community - I agree that there is a general pressure to be conservative, though it should also be noted that one can do very well in the academic philosophical community by defending very ably extremely controversial views. So, being associated with extremely unpopular views is - in academic philosophy - as likely to be beneficial as harmful. Note too, that such pressure is only going to be acute for young wannabe academic philosophers, not for those with secure positions (which is going to be the majority, I'd have thought).

    But, Peter Singer did not express his most controversial viewpoints until he became popular for his less controversial viewpoints.TheHedoMinimalist

    That's false. He was controversial from the get-go and his first book - Animal Liberation - was written when he had just completed his PhD and was not known or secure academically.

    But anyway, the more general point is that whether one is defending a controversial or uncontroversial, the method is basically the same: appeal to rational intuitions. Singer does this as much as anyone (and I agree with a lot of what Singer says and have considerable admiration for him - and note that he thinks that many of our rational intuitions are false and can be debunked by evolutionary explanations of their origins).

    I’m actually not sure if they actually do agree with you more here.TheHedoMinimalist

    Well, I certainly agree with that! I think very few agree with me here about anything. But anyway, there can be widespread intuitive agreement, yet differences of view about what the intuitions imply. For instance, in the debate over Gettier cases in Epistemology virtually no one has the intuition that the agent involved possesses knowledge, but there is disagreement over the correct analysis of why the agent fails to possess knowledge.

    I have challenged your moral particularism above by expressing my pessimism in people’s ability to do philosophy well while arguing that this pessimism doesn’t suggest that we shouldn’t devise philosophical theories.TheHedoMinimalist

    I do not see how that's an objection to moral particularism. My case does not assume that people are good at doing philosophy, only that they have fairly reliable faculties of rational intuition (just as I assume people have fairly reliable faculties of sight - and so if the vast bulk of people see a mugging, that's good evidence there was a mugging).
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    I don’t think that the 2 actions are equally bad. I actually think that it’s worse to harm yourself than it is to harm others. This is because there is a higher probability that someone has some reason to avoid causing themselves to suffer than the probability that someone has some reason to avoid causing others to suffer.TheHedoMinimalist

    But that's surely not what your intuitions say? Even if it is, it is certainly not what most people's intuitions say. It is normally far, far worse to hit someone else than to hit oneself, other things being equal.

    But you've judged that hitting yourself is worse because your theory says so. My whole point is that this is a topsy turvy way of doing moral philosophy. You're appealing to your theory rather than trying to respect intuitions. Yet any credibility your theory has will ultimately rest on how well it respects intuitions. So why not just cut to the chase and appeal to intuitions about each case, rather than appealing to theories?

    But, I think that there is a greater likelihood that it is correct than any other value theory that I had encountered. But, it’s still probably wrong to some extent and maybe even completely wrong.TheHedoMinimalist

    See, I just don't understand that. These arguments refute hedonistic theories:

    1. if moral hedonism is true, then hitting myself in the face is as bad as hitting someone else in the face, other things being equal.
    2. Hitting myself in the fact is not as bad as hitting someone else in the face, other things being equal
    3. Therefore moral hedonism is false.

    1 is a conceptual truth. I mean, how are you going to deny it? If you're a hedonist, you think happiness is morally valuable, yes? And equal amounts of happiness matter equally, yes? So its location doesn't matter - it doesn't matter whether it is your happiness or someone else's. Now, given those truths, it follows that 1 is true.

    And 2 is overwhelmingly well supported by rational intuitions. You can deny the probative force of all rational intuitions if you want, but by definition you'll have no way of arguing that case. You can deny the probative force of these particular intuitions - but then I want a case for denying their probative value, a case that does not - not - appeal to the supposed truth of hedonism (for that would be circular and would therefore express a commitment to the theory, rather than following evidence).

    So the theory is decisively refuted by that argument.

    And then there's this argument (made by W.D.Ross):

    1. If hedonism is true, then two worlds that contain equal amounts of happiness and pain are necessarily equally good
    2. Two worlds that contain equal amounts of happiness and pain are not necessarily equally good
    3. Therefore hedonism is false.

    Once more, premise 1 is a conceptual truth. And premise 2 is supported by intuitions. For example, imagine that in one world all the happy people are virtuous and all the pain is experienced by vicious people, whereas in the other the reverse is true. Now clearly the two worlds are not equally good - if one were a god and one could create one of those worlds but not the other, then clearly a good god would create the first and not the second. If you deny this, it is only because that's what your theory commits you to - that is, your theory commits you to denying the probative force of those intuitions that conflict with it.

    And there are lots of other refutations.

    Philosophy is really complicated and so our theories should be really complicated as well. This is our best chance of not having a terrible theory.TheHedoMinimalist

    That doesn't follow. Plus it is not at all clear what 'complex' and 'simple' mean in this context. For instance, is moral particularism complex or simple? In one sense it is simple, for it denies the truth of any fixed moral rule. But in another sense it is the most complex of all normative theories, for it allows that anything - anything - can, in principle, be morally relevant, which is precisely why rules - which, by their very nature deny this - should be taken with a pinch of salt.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223
    In answer to 2 - I am not sure, but it would seem not. For the god is benevolent (see above) and a benevolent being would not have created a world like this one and then forced innocent creatures to live in it. Most humans do that, of course - they're well aware of what the world is like, well aware that they themselves did not choose to live in it, yet think nothing of forcing innocent creatures to live in it, partly, no doubt, out of a desire to be admired and loved and worshipped - but I don't think a truly benevolent being would do that. Hence, I conclude that the god who exists, Reason, has not done so. But I am not sure, of course, it is just what seems to be implied by the evidence.Bartricks

    Well, in that case, you must have very unusual arguments for the existence of god. Most arguments for god’s existence argue that she is needed to explain the existence of the humans and the universe. The 2 most popular arguments for god’s existence are the Kalam Cosmological Argument and The Fine Tuning Argument. The former of which argues that the universe is not infinite and thus it had to be caused by something to exist. The latter arguments argues that the probability of the universe being stable enough for life to exist is so astronomically small that it couldn’t have been an accident. I’m not convinced by either argument because I have a Time Dependence Argument which argues that it’s unlikely that a mind can be eternal. For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to try to tell you the argument because it’s pretty long unless you want me to tell you the argument. But, since you do not think that god created the universe, I’m curious what other good arguments could you make for god’s existence which doesn’t appeal to her being the creator of the universe?

    Because that's the default. If you think some rational intuitions count for more, then you have the burden of proof.Bartricks

    I think the burden of proof is shared here because almost every philosopher thinks that some intuitions count for more than others(including yourself). We just have different theories about which intuitions count for more. You seem to think that if there is a debunking explanation for an intuition then the intuition becomes irrational. But, how do we determine which explanations for the intuition are debunking? I would like to suggest that there’s one more debunking explanation that you can add to your list of debunking explanations — and that would be that if an intuition contradicts itself with another intuition that most people hold then one of the intuitions must be false. I would argue that the intuition that the torture of Tom is unjustified contradicts itself with an epistemological intuition that most people hold. The epistemological intuition that most people hold is that all actions have deeper explanations for why they are wrong. Most people will try to give you a reason for why they think the torture of Tom is unjustified. They wouldn’t just say “well, it just seems wrong”. Given that most people reject your moral particularism, they would also reject the deeper intuitions of other people that they agree with on the case of Tom. I call these intuitions against the intuitions of other people “meta-intuitions”. So, suppose that a negative utilitarian and a Christian philosopher who gets his moral guidance from the Bible agree that the torture of Tom is unjustified but they give different explanations for why it is unjustified. In this case, they share the intuition that torture of Tom is unjustified but they also share the meta-intuition that the other philosopher has no good reason to agree with them that the torture of Tom is unjustified. So, the Negative Utilitarian might think that the Christian philosopher has no good reason to think that the torture of Tom is unjustified because The Christian God doesn’t exist and if he did then he would probably approve of Tom’s torture because he is a sadistic butcher(in the eyes of the negative utilitarian). The Christian philosopher might also think that the negative utilitarian has no reason to disapprove of Tom’s torture because he might think that without God everything would be morally permissible. So, given that most people share the meta-intuition that there’s no good reason for why so many people agree that the torture of Tom is unjustified, we must either reject the intuition that the torture of Tom is unjustified or we must reject the meta-intuition that most people have no reason to agree on this case given that they have vastly different reasons for doing so. I would choose to reject the first intuition because I have an intuition that meta-intuitions are more important than intuitions about cases of Applied Ethics.
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    Well, in that case, you must have very unusual arguments for the existence of god.TheHedoMinimalist

    Yes, I do. The argument is simple: there are prescriptions of Reason; only an agent can make a prescription; therefore Reason is an agent. And that agent is a god, because the agent who is Reason has the power and knowledge of Reason, which is more power and knowledge than anyone else.

    So, a god definitely exists. Should we attribute the external world to her? Well, like I say, that doesn't seem reasonable given that we have reason to believe she's benevolent and that no benevolent person would create a place like this and then force innocent others to live in it.

    My case is, of course, frustrating to most atheists as their standard responses aren't going to work against it!

    I think the burden of proof is shared here because almost every philosopher thinks that some intuitions count for more than others(including yourself). We just have different theories about which intuitions count for more.TheHedoMinimalist

    But I have already agreed to that. Anyone who thinks that some intuitions count for more than others has the burden of proof. I have shouldered that burden, though. I have provided a case for thinking some - such as those for which a wholly evolutionary explanation is the most reasonable - lack evidential clout. But so far as I can tell, you have not shouldered the burden - you have not explained why the intiuitions you want to dismiss lack probative force.

    But, how do we determine which explanations for the intuition are debunking?TheHedoMinimalist

    There's no rule for this - by asking me for formulate one you are begging the question. But as a rule of thumb, if the best explanation of why we get some impression or other does not make mention of that impression's accuracy conditions, then the impression lacks probative force. Why? Because we can explain why we get the impression X exists without having to posit X itself.
    Let's say Greg has been taught repeatedly that there exists a holy pig who controls all aspects of reality and that this pig will sometimes visit people in dreams and give them messages. Greg subsequently sometimes dreams of a holy pig who gives him messages. Now, the best explanation - surely - of why Greg has started having dreams of a holy pig who is giving him messages is not that there is a holy pig who is using dreams to give Greg messages, but that Greg has been told repeatedly that this will happen and - as we already know - minds are suggestible things. That's the best explanation - and note, it is an explanation that makes no mention of an actual holy pig. Thus, Greg's dream impressions of a holy pig do not constitute good evidence of such a pig's existence.

    Likewise, the best explanation of why so many of humans get the impression it is morally alright to procreate is the evolutionary one. That explanation does not have to make mention of the actual morality of procreation, and thus it is an explanation that discredits the impressions in question.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223
    By contrast, you want to say - it would seem - that rational intuitions that lend themselves to systemisation by some kind of rule or principle carry more weight than those that do not. I simply see no good reason to think that's true. I can understand that we might want it to be true - it would be damn useful if it were true - but that isn't any kind of evidence that it is true (indeed, if anything it should make us even more wary of its truth, given our tendency to engage in wishful thinking).Bartricks

    Fair enough, but are you willing to grant that those deeper intuitions matter as well? If you are willing to grant that all types of intuitions matter then it must be pointed out that moral particularism itself is counterintuitive to most people. Of course, most people simply do not know what moral particularism is but even among philosophers who know about the theory there is a small percentage who find it intuitive. So, what debunking explanation would you give for dismissing the intuitions of the majority of philosophers who find moral particularism counterintuitive? In addition, I think the majority of people also find your non-religious divine command theory to be counterintuitive as well. Most people seem to have an intuition that the existence of god or gods either implies that one of the religions is true or it implies that god is indifferent to human concerns. It’s counterintuitive for the vast majority of people to think that god cares about humanity and chose to give us prescriptions but he didn’t give us a religious text to allow us follow those prescriptions. Instead, he gave intuitions which are sometimes unreliable and for some reason there are some people who do not hold some of the most rational intuitions. If most people find this sort of divine command theory counterintuitive, then what is the debunking explanation for the intuitions of the vast majority of people?
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    Fair enough, but are you willing to grant that those deeper intuitions matter as well?TheHedoMinimalist

    That's question begging. They're not 'deeper' - I don't know what that means in this context. There are just rational intuitions. Some are suspect, some are not.

    it must be pointed out that moral particularism itself is counterintuitive to most people.TheHedoMinimalist

    How can it be when it says no more or less than to listen to your rational intuitions rather than the biddings of a theory? Note, moral particularism makes no claim about which particular acts are right or wrong - so how can it possibly conflict with anyone's intuitions?

    In addition, I think the majority of people also find your non-religious divine command theory to be counterintuitive as well.TheHedoMinimalist

    I think you are misusing the term 'intuitive'.

    Note too that my theory is entailed - logically entailed - by claims that are self evident to reason. If you think otherwise, then you need to tell me which claim is not self-evident to reason - that is, which one does not have intuitions representing it to be true?

    For example, there are prescriptions of Reason - that's something our reason (a faculty) tells us. That is, it is intuitively clear that there are prescriptions of Reason.

    It is also intuitively clear that for any prescription that exists, there must be a person who has issued it.

    It is also intuitively clear that it follows from those two claims that all of the prescriptions of Reason must be the prescriptions of some person or the other.

    It is equally intuitively clear that the prescriptions of Reason are not prescriptions that you or I are issuing.

    And it is intuitively clear that the prescriptions of Reason have a single source.

    It follows from these intuitively clear claims that the prescriptions of Reason are the prescriptions of a single person.

    You can't say that that's counter-intuitive until or unless you locate something in the above that is counter-intuitive.
  • TheHedoMinimalist
    223
    For instance, in the debate over Gettier cases in Epistemology virtually no one has the intuition that the agent involved possesses knowledge, but there is disagreement over the correct analysis of why the agent fails to possess knowledge.Bartricks

    I don’t think that’s true. I had heard that studies in experimental philosophy had revealed that most people in East Asian countries think that the agent has knowledge in Gettier cases. In addition, as many as 25% of people in Western countries claim that the agent had knowledge. I’m using a lecture I heard on YouTube as the source. The lecture is called “Intuition in Philosophy 2” and it is given by a philosopher named Kane B.

    I do not see how that's an objection to moral particularism. My case does not assume that people are good at doing philosophy, only that they have fairly reliable faculties of rational intuition (just as I assume people have fairly reliable faculties of sight - and so if the vast bulk of people see a mugging, that's good evidence there was a mugging).Bartricks

    Well, I don’t share your assumption that our intuitions are somewhat close to reliability to our eyesights . Unlike our intuitions, our eyesight doesn’t get influenced by the place and time period that we grew up in and almost nobody sees something that no one else sees. For example, if I had a time machine and brought people from 15th century Japan to look at a basketball, then the basketball would appear the same to them as it would to modern day humans. It would have the same color and the same shape and the stripes of the basketball would appear in the same location for every person with very few exceptions of those who are blind or color blind. But, the intuitions held by the Medieval Japanese would be wildly different from the intuitions held by modern day humans. The Medieval Japanese would likely hold intuitions that the Earth is flat and that killing a peasant to please an aristocrat is morally right. It’s worth pointing out that people in the past did not only hold different moral intuitions than modern day humans but they also held different intuitions about how the world works in general. They had the intuition that the Earth was flat. They also had intuitions that tragedies came about because of black magic performed by witches. They also had intuitions that we could cure diseases with leeches and blood letting and so on. Given that the vast majority of intuitions held throughout history turned out to be inaccurate, why should we expect most intuitions that are held today to be accurate? Of course, I would like to point out that arguing that most intuitions are inaccurate does not imply that we shouldn’t use intuitions in philosophy. We simply have no choice but to use intuitions and other unreliable tools like language in philosophy and this is why humans are so inadequate at doing philosophy. But, there might be a very small minority of humans that have exceptional intuitions and an exceptionally precise use of language. I’m not saying that I belong to that extremely elite minority. I have no way of determining if I do or do not belong in that exceptional minority. Though, I suspect that the odds of me being right about most things are slim to none. But, as a philosopher, I strive to be in that minority of people anyway. Given that the vast majority of people probably have really inaccurate intuitions, this opens up the door for those who hold very strange and wildly unusual intuitions to trust their intuitions as much as most normal people trust their intuitions. So, I think that people with crazy intuitions are just as likely to be right as those with normal intuitions.
  • ZhouBoTong
    665
    Sorry for the delayed response...

    I always felt like being good at philosophy was more similar to being good at trivia than being good at fixing cars.TheHedoMinimalist

    Hard to argue with that. I view it as useful for forming our political opinions...but those only matter at rare moments (like voting). I think if I was NOT interested in philosophy, then I would have very little desire to study it...so I can understand (and appreciate) your desire to attach practical application.

    It doesn’t help that I sometimes get mocked by my family for being bad at practical tasks like working on cars, doing basic home repairs, and cooking complicated meals. My family also knows that I’m like a walking encyclopedia of somewhat useless knowledge.TheHedoMinimalist

    My friends and family have learned that, right or wrong, they better be ready for a long discussion on exactly why I behave the way I do in any situation. Personally, I find philosophy far more useful than automotive repair. Unless I get a job as a mechanic, being skilled at automotive repair might save me a few hundred dollars a year on maintenance...philosophy seems more important than that (even if the only practical purpose is a more informed vote and a bit of self confidence in one's world view).

    Unfortunately, I just don’t enjoy learning practical skills. Even as a musician, I don’t like to hone my guitar and piano playing abilities. Instead, I prefer to hone my songwriting abilities instead and record the instruments in my songs with an app like Garage Band. This allows me to compose music with minimal technical ability.TheHedoMinimalist

    This highlights what I may see as a problem for you (not really a problem, just a lack of confidence...maybe you are still young? - like in your 20s - young for this place, haha).

    Shows like "The Voice", "American Idol", etc. have PROVED that the real talent in music is song writing. There are hundreds or thousands of talented, good looking musicians out there. However, very few can write an entertaining piece of music. So don't get too caught up in "practical" skills that you ignore a much more significant talent that you may have.

    I would disagree that there’s only a few factors to analyze.TheHedoMinimalist

    Yeah, sorry I was a bit quick there. I was just trying to label it as simply personal preference, but I get many factors can go into personal preference.

    So, as you can see, there’s definitely a lot of interesting things to analyze regarding this topic.TheHedoMinimalist

    You have described several things that should be considered in the antinatalist discussion. I still think there is a huge overarching "personal preference" that will be the deciding factor for most people. For example, when analyzing the financial costs, someone who really wants kids will justify any cost while those who don't will view all costs as prohibitive. You are that rare (and admirable) person that does not have a nagging personal feeling and is just analyzing the factors involved. I think there is a lot of value in your video series. Both for the other people out there who attempt to make decisions purely based on objective analysis (I really wish there were a lot more people like this...I though I was close, but can certainly see my personal preferences interfering in this case), and just as an objective overview of the argument. It will be particularly useful for those who are new to the antinatalist discussion and may hear some of those factors for the first time (similar to that stanford.plato website).
  • ZhouBoTong
    665
    Someone had probably said something like this when e.g. Aristarchus proposed that the earth went around the sun or Eratosthenes, by measuring the earth's circumference, demonstrated it's not flat.180 Proof

    And I don't think most people are capable of figuring out what Aristarchus and Eratosthenes did. They can be told the answer that those guys discovered...and if the rest of society accepts these things as obviously true then they have no reason to doubt. Isn't moral reasoning closer to discovering that the earth orbits the sun than it is to accepting that fact when told?
  • Bartricks
    1.9k
    I don’t think that’s true. I had heard that studies in experimental philosophy had revealed that most people in East Asian countries think that the agent has knowledge in Gettier cases.TheHedoMinimalist

    You can't just ask anyone these questions and cultural variation is to be expected to some extent. But among analytic philosophers the overwhelming consensus is that the agent does not have knowledge in such cases.

    Now, there is far less reason to think that cultural factors are playing a huge rule among that constituency. Why? Because analytic philosophers are ruthless followers of reason, rather than culture. They know how to think. They know not to simply defer to whatever worldview is dominant in their culture.

    You don't just ask anyone their opinion about the mole on your forearm. You ask medical professionals. And you don't just ask anyone's opinion about the epistemic status of the true beliefs of a victim of a Gettier case.

    Anyway, all you're really doing is playing the extreme scepticism card. I appeal to intuitions - as must anyone who is arguing for anything at all - and you're now questioning the probative value of all intuitions. All of them.

    Intuitions are not default inaccurate. They're default accurate. So, if you think some are inaccurate, you have the burden of proof.

    Now, I have explained why we have good independent reason to think some - indeed, vast swathes - of our intuitions are inaccurate. My explanation did not appeal to the theory I am seeking to defend.

    But by contrast, you have not provided me with any explanation of why those intuitions that axiological hedonism runs foul of should be discounted. Until or unless you can provide such an explanation - and the explanation needs not to appeal to the supposed truth of axiological hedonism, or to the supposedly fixed character of morality (for that would be circular) - you are simply dismissing intuitions on no justifiable grounds.

    Again, it is no good then saying 'no intuitions are reliable' - for that's to give up the investigation into reality in favour of a comfortable dogmatic scepticism. And it is to do so arbitrarily - you are becoming a radical sceptic whenever you're confronted with evidence your theory is false.
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