• Banno
    7.1k
    https://www.pitt.edu/~mthompso/readings/mmp.pdf

    Grayling drew my attention back to this article, when in his History of Philosophy he says she:

    ...argued that both deontology and consequentialism assume a foundation for ethics in the concept of obligation, which makes no sense in the absence of a lawgiver which or who imposes it...

    And on a direct reading I found her convincing. What a neat rejection of, say, Singer!

    But I would reject the modus tollens reading... https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/anscombe/#VirEth

    Any one interested in discussing?
  • StreetlightX
    4.7k
    I have been wanting to read this essay for years so yes.
  • BitconnectCarlos
    250
    This essay is one of my favorites in moral philosophy but it's been years since I've read it. I'm not a catholic - I don't agree with Anscombe on everything - but man that woman was sharp. I highly recommend Human Life, Action, and Ethics which is a compilation of her essays on a variety of topics. I'm pretty sure diving into Anscombe was what boosted my philosophy GPA by like a full number.

    I'd be happy to discuss the essay although it's been some time since I've read it and she makes multiple different point throughout the essay. If I remember correctly this paper had a hand in the revival of virtue ethics.
  • Pfhorrest
    1.3k
    Obligation makes as much sense in absence of a moral lawgiver as alethic necessity makes in absence of a reality-maker: plenty. Obligations are just deontic necessities, and deontic or descriptive claims no more need be made true by someone than alethic or descriptive claims do. Once you understand what a prescriptive claim means, there are some that are just necessarily true in virtue of their logical structure, and those are the obligations. There are still plenty that are only contingently true, made true by phenomenal experiences accessible in common by to people, just like contingent descriptions are made true by empirical observation; and honestly consequentialism appeals much more to those than to any obligations.
  • Banno
    7.1k
    Once you understand what a prescriptive claim means, there are some that are just necessarily true in virtue of their logical structure, and those are the obligations.Pfhorrest

    Such as...

    (It's important, because you will be replacing a divine lawgiver with a necessary one...)
  • Banno
    7.1k
    So would you be willing to defend your view here, in a discussion of the article?
  • csalisbury
    2.1k
    I'm interested. I'm up late after the superbowl with nothing to do. (background : I'm coming into the essay knowing nothing about it, and little about moral philosophy)

    So to begin.

    Paragraph one

    Anscombe beings with three theses :

    1. It's not profitable, at present, to do moral philosophy. That should be laid aside until we have an adequate philosophy of psychology.

    2. The concepts of moral obligation and moral duty are atavistic - they come to us from a time when survival was of prime importance.

    3. The differences between moral philosophers like Sedgwick (who I don't know) and everyone else up to the present day aren't of much importance

    [commentary : When she said she had three theses, I expected them to be something different. I can't tell if they're tongue-in-cheek or not. (1) Seems to be almost behaviorist. (2) Seems to be Nietzschean (3) seems to hinge on Sedgwick, who, i don't know who is that. But it seems, more broadly, to say : the nuances of moral philosophy to this point doesn't much matter. As a whole the three theses she suggests, [i]feels[/i] to me like she's stage-setting by rhetorically playing the role of a decadent philosopher, who doesn't really understand the purpose of moral philosophy. I don't know if that's right. Maybe she means them. Have to keep reading]

    Paragraph two

    Difference between Aristotle's Ethics and modern moral philosophy. Aristotle doesn't seem to focus on what the moderns focus on. What we mean by 'moral' today doesn't even seem to have a place in Aristotle.

    Aristotle breaks up virtues in two ways

    1. Moral
    2. Intellectual

    Do his intellectual virtues have a moral aspect? Tentatively, yes. A failure in intellectual virtue is blameworthy, like in government. [For example, we might blame economists for the 2008 finanical crisis, in a way that is both intellectual and moral]

    But we can't 'blame' someone for any sort of failure? Is being blameworthy always a moral matter? Like, what if you just program an app wrong? Is that a moral failure?

    Ok, so some failures are morally blameworthy, some are not. Does Aristotle understand this distinction?If he does, why doesn't he focus more on this distinction?

    Another Aristotelian distinction:

    'Involuntariness in Action'
    vs
    Scoundrelism

    A man can be blamed for the latter. [It seems like 'scoundrelism' maybe just means 'doing stuff in bad way such that you can be blamed for it']

    But if we make this distinction, does it not follow that there is a moral obligation not to make certain intellectual mistakes? Next Anscombe asks [ & I don't quite follow why] Why doesn't Aristotle discuss obligation in general versus obligation in particular?]

    She then goes on to do a very post-wittgenstein british thing : If anyone modern discusses Aristotle and doesn't feel like [example from daily life], they must be very imperceptive indeed.

    [commentary: I think what Anscombe is trying to say is that Aristotle confuses Intellectual and moral failings, as we understand them. He runs the two together. She's not very clear on what she means, but it has something to do with blame. Presumably we think a moral failing is blameworthy, while an intellectual one is not. I think there's a lot more to unpack here. Blame and responsibility are a big topic, and I think empirically things don't filter out quite in the scheme she wants to set up, but I get her point and whatever the case may be, it's certaintly true that what Anscombe wants to talk about when she talks about morality doesn't seem to be quite what Aristotle was talking about. Whether that's a failure of Aristotle or a confusion of Anscombe is irrelevant to that fact being true.]
  • csalisbury
    2.1k
    Continuing:
    Anscombe draws the conclusion that we can't look to Aristotle for elucidation of moralty as we think of it. What about other thinkers?

    - Butler: He appeals to conscience. But what about things like that show 'You' where the hero thinks he's doing good, but is actually doing really bad stuff? [BROKE]

    - Hume : Defines truth in a way that excludes ethical judgment. He defines passion in a way that any aim at anything suggests a passion is at play. The is/ought distinction is equally an is/owes and
    an is/needs distinction (?). She says she'll return to this (which is good! I'm not sure what she's getting at to be honest.)

    -Kant. Anscombe focuses on Kant's metaphor of 'legislating for oneself.' She shows how this silly - What? Is 'legislation' a one-man vote? Her approach seems to be that all legislation is parliamentary, and any idea about legislation has to be framed in a parliamentary context in order to determine whether or not it is absurd. She explains that legislation needs a power superior to the legislator. She says deontology doesn't take into account context.
  • tim wood
    3.9k
    Any one interested in discussing?Banno
    I am. But it seems to me that the only way is to KISS it. Accordingly I ask for some preliminary definitions, even if tentative and provisional.

    ...argued that both deontology and consequentialism assume a foundation for ethics in the concept of obligation, which makes no sense in the absence of a lawgiver which or who imposes it...Banno

    Does "obligation" mean or signify anything in particular?

    And the title of the OP is "Modern Moral Philosophy," while the question in the OP appears to be about a particular syllogism in the piece. Can you lay out the ground a little more clearly, with a bit more clarity?

    I take "morals" and "ethics" to be in the breach interchangeable terms meaning the same thing, absent qualification. I think they exist - or is this discussion going off on the path of the existence of ethics? Given their existence, I have opinions about them, but it seems to me a fuller expression of what this thread is intended to be about would be nice to have before unpacking any of that.
  • Pfhorrest
    1.3k
    So would you be willing to defend your view here, in a discussion of the article?Banno

    If I can find time to read the article, sure. I was just replying to the snipped you quoted for now.
  • StreetlightX
    4.7k
    Man I hate the way Anscombe writes. I read Intention last year and it was a terrible experience, and this reminds me why. Like, this is such incredibly ugly writing:

    "if xyz is a set of facts brute relative to a description A, then xyz is a set out of a range some set among which holds if A holds; but the holding of some set among these does not necessarily entail A because exceptional circumstances can always make a difference; ... Further, though in normal cirucmstances, xyz would be a justification for A, of which instituion A is of course not itself a description." :vomit:
  • David Mo
    208
    obligation, which makes no sense in the absence of a lawgiver which or who imposes it...
    Banno
    What about the autonomy of reason?
    Anscomb says it is absurd to think that I can legislate on myself. This is a substantialist prejudice. Man's reason can legislate on his passions. For example.
  • Galuchat
    765
    The first is that it is not profitable for us at present to do moral philosophy; that should be laid aside at any rate until we have an adequate philosophy of psychology, in which we are conspicuously lacking. — Anscombe

    Agreed. So, end the article here.

    The second is that the concepts of obligation, and duty - moral obligation and moral duty, that is to say - and of what is morally right and wrong, and of the moral sense of 'ought,' ought to be jettisoned if this is psychologically possible... — Anscombe

    It isn't psychologically possible.

    A deontological approach is required for normative ethics because conscience (an intuitive faculty) appraises circumstances, and judges personal motive, intent, and action, according to (subjective, then intersubjective) ethical knowledge.

    And:
    1) Moral obligations are required by conscience, imposing natural duties of performance and forbearance on the obligor(s), and creating corresponding rights to demand performance or forbearance by the obligee(s).
    2) Right action is the faultless performance of moral action.
  • StreetlightX
    4.7k
    Anscombe's paper "On Brute Facts" is quite useful to read here as supplementary, at least to the awful passage about brute facts I quoted earlier. It's only 5 pages long (available via google search) and it slows down and fills out the leaps made in the 'brute facts' passage. Will quote the bulk of the last page here for context:

    We can now state some of the relations which at least sometimes hold between a description, say A, and descriptions, say xyz, of facts which are brute in relation to the fact described by A.

    (1) There is a range of sets of such descriptions xyz such that some set of the range must be true if the description A is to be true. But the range can only ever be roughly indicated, and the way to indicate it is by giving a few diverse examples.

    (2) The existence of the description A in the language in which it occurs presupposes a context, which we will call "the institution behind A "; this context may or may not be presupposed to elements in the descriptions xyz. For example, the institution of buying and selling is presupposed to the description "sending a bill", as it is to "being owed for goods received", but not to the description "supplying potatoes ".

    (3) A is not a description of the institution behind A.

    (4) If some set holds out of the range of sets of descriptions some of which must hold if A is to hold, and if the institution behind A exists, then " in normal circumstances" A holds. The meaning of "in normal circumstances" can only be indicated roughly, by giving examples of exceptional circumstances
    in which A would not hold.

    (5) To assert the truth of A is not to assert that the circumstances were "normal"; but if one is asked to justify A, the truth of the description xyz is in normal circumstances an adequate justification: A is not verified by any further facts.

    (6) If A entails some other description B, then xyz cannot generally be said to entail B, but xyZ together with normality of circumstances relatively to such descriptions as A can be said to entail B.
    — Anscombe, 'On Brute Facts'
  • frank
    4.3k
    "The ordinary (and quite indispensable) terms "should," "needs," "ought," "must" --acquired this special sense by being equated in the relevant contexts with "is obliged" or "is bound," or "is required to" in the sense in which one can be obliged or bound by law, or something can be required by law.

    "How did this come about? The answer is in history: between Aristotle and us came Christianity, with its law conception of ethics. For Christianity derived its ethical notions from the Torah. (One might be inclined to think that a law conception of ethics could arise only among people who accepted an allegedly divine positive law; that this is not so is shown by the example of the Stoics, who also thought that whatever was involved in conformity to human virtues was required by divine law."

    - page 4,5

    This is Nietzschean in the sense that the author is expressing a pet perspective clothed in a partially correct historical account. My experience with Nietzsche says we should spend a little time trying to understand her point rather than unwinding the package it's coming in, except in the surrounding text she feels the need to shit on philosophical views that actually have exactly the same ground as hers. The reason they do is that Christianity absorbed all the ethical perspectives it had access to. It became an intellectual forum for them. Law-bound morality is one of the figures in the forum. Emancipation and progress are also essential features of Christianity that aren't preoccupied with obligations, but rather on the effect of sin on the sinner and the victim.

    But back to law-bound morality. Yes, that's part of what morality is to us.
  • SophistiCat
    1k
    Yikes. I don't think I can stomach any more of this. Is there an English translation?
  • Banno
    7.1k
    So she doesn't spoon feed. You averse to complexity? You in the wrong forum.
  • Banno
    7.1k
    Nice start. It'd be best to keep an eye on the big picture while examining the detail.

    I think what Anscombe is trying to say is that Aristotle confuses Intellectual and moral failings, as we understand them.csalisbury

    I'm reading this as sympathetic to Aristotle, as the author of approaching ethics through virtue. That is, that ethical thinking is not so very different from other forms of rationality; that there is no a distinct form of reasoning that might be called "moral reasoning". Aristotle is not confusing intellectual and moral failings, as you say, but rather that very distinction is not found in Aristotle, but is found in modern moral philosophy. SO discussing Aristotle in such moral terms is fraught; "the teeth do not come together in a bite".
  • Banno
    7.1k
    Her approach seems to be that all legislation is parliamentary,csalisbury

    This is a substantialist prejudice. Man's reason can legislate on his passions. For example.David Mo

    Yeah, nuh.

    She's well versed in Wittgenstein, so I'm reading this as a variant on the private language argument; that is, one cannot make sense of following a private rule, because one could have no way of verifying that one was indeed following the rule. Consider the case in which you believe you are following a rule, but actually you are mis-remembering the rule...
  • Banno
    7.1k
    conscience (an intuitive faculty)Galuchat

    Yeah, one might suppose that you just made up this intuition to fill the space left by the removal of a commanding divinity.

    This is a key change for me, since I have elsewhere defended Moore's notion that we have a moral intuition. Anscombe's critique of that is I now think quite telling. It now seems to me that Deontology is anomalous. It is a mistake to suppose that there must be a moral rule that we ought obey; and not just that there is no such rule, but that supposition that this is the correct way to approach ethics is muddled.

    Further the very same argument applies to consequentialism, and hence utilitarianism.

    We ought not tackle ethics by looking for other universal rules - deontic or utilitarian - to replace divine rules, but by looking more directly at what we do, at what is virtuous.
  • Banno
    7.1k


    https://edisciplinas.usp.br/pluginfile.php/2567359/mod_resource/content/1/anscombe%20brute%20facts.pdf

    I'm thinking of basic facts as those presupposed by a language game. SO that the spuds were delivered to my house is part of the language game of my purchasing the spuds.

    The spuds were delivered. Brute fact. Saying "yep, you delivered the spuds, as I requested. That's a brute fact. But nothing in that brute fact entails that I now owe you money" is to utterly misunderstand what is going on.

    Anscombe is arguing against there being a missing step - "Does my owing the grocer in this case consist in any facts beyond the ones mentioned? No."
  • csalisbury
    2.1k
    Nice start. It'd be best to keep an eye on the big picture while examining the detail.Banno

    Good call. I'll read it through, then circle back
  • god must be atheist
    1.9k
    private language argument; that is, one cannot make sense of following a private rule, because one could have no way of verifying that one was indeed following the rule. Consider the case in which you believe you are following a rule, but actually you are mis-remembering the ruleBanno

    If you wrote down the rule, to refer to it from time to time, would the rule lose its quality of being private? I hardly think so.

    I should read Wittgenstein to verify that he is overrated and actually his only true observations are the blindingly obvious, or else they are (in the majority) plain wrong. This is a theory I should embark on showing evidence for, much like to show that and how Kant overthought himself, and nicely bound himself (meaing his philosophy) into a bunch of self-contradictions. Wittgenstein does not contradict himself, he just states the (ibid) or else he is (ibid).
  • Banno
    7.1k
    Sure. But your other posts have demonstrated your lack of insight, so I don’t much care what you think.
  • Banno
    7.1k
    that’s what I’m doing. I’m enjoying her humour, although it is stuck-up, stifling English.
  • god must be atheist
    1.9k
    It is clear to me too that you don't have the mental capacity to appreciate my level and quality of insight. So what you wrote is an obvious effect. Thank you for supporting my theory. Which in my opinion is not so much a theory but a status quo.

    But instead of personal mud-slinging would it not much better to focus on your topic? I'm in the middle of reading the article. I just got up to take a pain killer for 1. arthritic pain and 2. you. I'll be soon reporting my to you not even existing insights.
  • creativesoul
    7.6k
    Sure. But your other posts have demonstrated your lack of insight, so I don’t much care what you think.Banno

    Wow.

    :grin:

    Even I have not received such outright blatant disrespect from the grumpy old goat, and I'm at odds with him(and myself at times) intentionally...

    Nice thread my friend. Much needed thought in today's world, and definitely a subject matter that my own position has significant trouble attending to.

    I'll read, but will not enter into discussion until after I know I've a good grasp on things... old dogs and new tricks.

    :wink:
  • god must be atheist
    1.9k
    I finished the article. It says that there is no determination whatsoever what ethical or moral is. Then it shows that ethics can be used to prove a moral action to be unethical.

    The author throws a light on the question: will we ever find the golden key (so to speak) that unlocks the problem (elusiveness) of what is ethical?

    The author has shown how each ethicist errs in his or her philosophy. This is actually quite easily done, if one applies the "exception" or "contradicting example" mental experiment. The author takes the proof a bit further, and she asserts the logical self-contradiction of each prior ethicist with more than that: the author builds a case of logic that in general terms, not just in a specific example, destroys the case of other ethicists.
  • Banno
    7.1k
    I'll let that rest here, in suport of my previous comment.
  • Banno
    7.1k
    Even I have not received such outright blatant disrespect from the grumpy old goat, and I'm at odds with him(and myself at times) intentionally...creativesoul

    Yeah, I know. But the quality of this forum keeps dropping. There are maybe a half-dozen who actually have a proper go, like reading the article before commenting...
  • god must be atheist
    1.9k
    Further to my one previous comment: the cases in point are focussed on by the following parts as quoted from the article:

    This part of the subject matter of ethics , is however, completely closed to us until we have an account of what type of characteristics a virtue is -- a problem not of ethics, but of conceptual analysis

    This word "ought" ... could not, in the character of having that force, be inferred form anything whatever.

    ... in such-and-such circumstances one ought to procure the judicial condemnation of the innocent. And that is my complaint.
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